tagRomanceFaith, Hope and Love

Faith, Hope and Love

byJoeDreamer©

"Okay, that's the third time I caught you looking across the bar at that girl. What's going on?"

"Seriously?" I glanced at Eli after I swallowed a mouth full of beer. "Since when is it weird for us to check out girls while we're here? Hell, I thought that was the main reason why we came in the first place."

"It is, but her?" he all but snorted. "You can't be serious."

"What's wrong with her?" I took another look. I admit the girl wasn't beautiful in the classic sense, but she was attractive enough.

"She's chubby," Eli critiqued. "And on the plain side."

"She's not chubby, dumbass!" I snapped, half annoyed and half laughing. I knew he was being a jerk just to bother me, but that it didn't stop me from reacting. "She's also not built like the little boys you like to date." Eli liked his women on the slim side. He grinned at my dig, which was so Eli. We'd been friends too long for name calling to matter. "And have you looked at those eyes? There's nothing plain about them."

"Her eyes?" He asked, rolling his own. "I'm pretty sure that not a part of the woman we typically come to bars to check out."

"Not usually," I mused. "But there's something about hers that..."

"Fine, she's God's gift to men everywhere," Eli interjected sarcastically, cutting me off. "But that still doesn't explain your interest because we both know she's not your type. You're usually into 'the girl next store' and this one certainly isn't that." He paused long enough to take a pull from his beer and notice me looking at her yet again when he was done. Eli shook his head in disbelief. "For Christ's sake! She's wearing a nose ring and her hair's purple! Are you trying to tell me you're suddenly into that?"

The girl wasn't wearing a nose ring. It was a small stud and her hair was long and brunette, not purple. Okay, so there was a streak of color coming out from underneath on one side, but it wasn't blaring or obnoxious. It actually looked good. Of course, that didn't make Eli's point any less true.

"No, she's not," I admitted. "But there's something about her."

"You're not going to mention her eyes again, are you?" I knew he meant it as a dig, but I didn't let him distract me.

"They're gorgeous." I insisted before frowning and adding, "But also sort of sad." She was sitting at the bar by herself nursing her drink. The place was filled with holiday spirit this close to Christmas, but she seemed immune.

"They're brown," Eli stated with a shake of his head as he looked at her once more.

We remained silent a few moments, each watching the brunette thinking our own thoughts. A guy walked up to her and started talking. It was pretty clear that he was hitting on her. It was equally obvious based on her expression that he was going to crash and burn. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but it must have been rough because the guy left only moments after he arrived.

Eli shook his head and added, "Although, the girl definitely has a style all her own."

"I like it." I hadn't missed his sarcasm. I simply chose to ignore it. Eli shrugged and moved on to checking out some of the other women sitting nearby. My eyes remained on the brunette. She was probably a couple years younger than me. Maybe twenty-four or twenty-five.

Most of the women in the bar had either come straight from an office job or had taken the time to stop home and dress to impress. The girl was different there as well. She was wearing an old, black long sleeve concert tee-shirt for some Christian band and comfortable jeans. It should have made her seem out of place, but it didn't. Not to me anyway.

Eli and I spent the next ten minutes catching up since we hadn't seen each other in a few weeks, but every time there was a lull in the conversation my eyes wandered back to the brunette. Honestly, I occasionally stole a glance in her direction even when we were talking.

My best friend wasn't blind to my antics, but instead of commenting again, he'd just roll his eyes when he caught me. I was only half paying attention to what he was saying when Eli suddenly finished his beer and stood. For a moment, I thought he was going to insist we go over and introduce ourselves, but instead he said, "Well, it's getting late and I've got to go."

"Already?" I was disappointed. Eli had only agreed to meet up for a couple of drinks, but I had hoped to convince him to hang out longer. I took one look at his expression and knew it wasn't going to happen. That typically meant only one thing. "Hot date?"

"Smoking!" he laughed, but it was short lived. He grimaced as the music started again. "Besides, I've had as much as I can stand of Christmas Carols."

I didn't blame him. Tomorrow was the Eve and I was looking forward to when the holiday was over. Don't get me wrong. I love the whole Christmas spirit thing and all, but sometimes it got old.

"I hear you." The bar was popular in town for a couple of reasons. First, it had cheap drinks during happy hour. And second, they had something going on most nights for entertainment. I liked when they had a live band. I could deal with the trivia contests. Unfortunately, tonight was karaoke night.

Worse, some genius decided that there should be a holiday theme since this was Christmas week. I know that might not sound bad, but you could only suffer so many badly sung renditions of the Christmas Song before snapping. Still, the night was young and I wasn't ready to go home yet.

"I'm going to hang out a bit longer," I said, holding out my hand and adding with a slow grin, "Happy Festivus." It was an old joke between us. Eli didn't celebrate Christmas. He didn't really celebrate Hanukkah either despite his upbringing. He wasn't the most religious guy in the world so Seinfeld's Festivus holiday was perfect for him.

"Happy Festivus for the rest of us!" He laughed as he shook my hand and pulled me into a brief hug that was more of a chest bump. "And you have a Merry Christmas."

"Thanks, but it doesn't look hopeful. I love my extended family, but I'm not sure why we still get together every year. Some of my cousins are way out there. In fact..."

"Just be sure to say hello to Jean for me," Eli interjected with a grin as he stepped back, obviously not interested in listening to my holiday woes yet again. "And wish your parents a Merry Christmas for me." His bringing up my cousin reminded me that I forgot to tell him the news. This was going to be good.

Eli had a crush on Jean for years, ever since her parents went away on a romantic getaway for one of their anniversaries and left her with us for a week. We were around fourteen or fifteen at the time. Back then Jean lived about two hours away so nothing ever came of it, but the sparks were obvious between the two whenever her family visited.

I would have tried to set them up when she graduated college and moved closer for a job, but Jean brought a live-in boyfriend with her. I'd met him a couple of times. She seemed to really care for the guy at first, but he wasn't my favorite person in the world and it had nothing to do with Eli. I didn't like the way he treated my cousin. She deserved better.

"Speaking of Jean," I said nonchalantly before he disappeared. I also pulled out my phone and started typing. "I heard she finally dumped the loser. He moved out last week."

I watched for Eli's reaction and wasn't disappointed. His expression was almost comical. That's when I hit send on my phone, texting him Jean's number. "You should give her a call soon. A girl like her won't stay on the market long." Eli pulled out his phone when it beeped and grinned when he saw what I sent him.

"You know, I might just do that." I knew that there was no 'might' about it. I was betting my cousin would get a call shortly, maybe even before Eli reached his car. I laughed to myself as I watched him go.

I figured my best friend had a pretty good chance with my cousin. I'd had them both over my place around Thanksgiving and even though she was still dating the loser at the time you couldn't miss how much they were drawn to each other. Besides, Jean had okayed me giving Eli her number. Hell, she'd all but suggested it. I was pretty sure they would be dating before the new year.

~~Grandma got run over by a reindeer~~

I didn't quite groan as two drunk guys began singing. One of them was terrible, but the other carried him enough not to make it completely painful. On the other hand, two drunks singing was rough enough even without their choice in song.

I finished my beer somewhere in the middle of their rendition and decided two things. The first was that I wanted another. The second was that I needed something to distract me from the terrible karaoke. So of course, I glanced at the brunette across the bar once more.

I hadn't been completely honest with Eli earlier. Everything I said was true, but what I didn't include was the fact that she looked familiar to me. Mostly because I didn't need the abuse. Plus, I really had no idea where I knew her from and if I told Eli that he'd have dragged me over to her and embarrassed me. Of course, I was going to do that all by myself now anyway.

I stood, left a tip and made my way to the other side of the bar. I wasn't sure what I was going to say, but I hoped I'd do better than the last guy. I thought that I'd figure out an approach along the way, but I was distracted when I saw a worn guitar case next to her leaning against an old beat up duffle bag. They were both against the bar and had seen some serious use.

"Just passing through?" I couldn't stop myself. It was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw her stuff and it slipped out.

"Seriously?" She didn't look amused. Great.

"Well, it was either that or 'haven't we met somewhere before?'" She didn't even crack a smile. I had the distinct impression that I had a better than average chance of crashing and burning even worse than the last guy. Thank God I waited until Eli left. He would have enjoyed this far too much. "Sorry about that."

"Look, even if you had a good line, it would have been wasted on me. I'm not really in the mood for company." She turned back to her drink and took a sip, dismissing me from her thoughts. The only problem was that I wasn't quite ready to be dismissed yet.

"I get it. It's just that I really do think we may know each other." She turned back and looked at me in a way that let me know that despite her mood she was taking me seriously. Not that it was helping based on her expression. It was pretty obvious that the young woman didn't recognize me. The fact that she continued to stare made me wonder what she was thinking. I hoped she liked what she was seeing half as much as I did.

Eli was crazy if he really thought she was plain. I mean, sure she wasn't a drop dead gorgeous beauty, but there was something about her that drew you in. First of all, her eyes were even more incredible up close than I originally thought from afar. They were deep brown and expressive. Looking into them made me feel like I had a window into her innermost thoughts and feelings. Oddly, the sadness I saw there intrigued me more than anything else.

My eyes drifted lower and I noticed that although her lips were slightly chapped, they were also very appealing, being neither too thin nor too thick and shaped enticingly. They fit her mouth perfectly and I caught myself wondering what it would feel like to kiss them.

I definitely had it bad for this girl. Everything about her got to me. I mean, when you catch yourself following a girl's jaw line with interest that's definitely a sign. I will admit to being momentarily thrown when I noticed the purple under layer again. I hadn't realized that there was some pink in it. Of course, that only lasted until I noticed her neck.

Can a neck be sexy? Well, hers was.

She was tan the way light skinned girls get tan when they've been in the sun a long time and were passed the whole burning thing. That was odd for this time of the year, especially considering she didn't have the look of someone recently returned from vacation. I'm sure there was a story there. The question was would I be able to get her to share it.

I sincerely hoped so and I wasn't even sure why. I mean, sure I was attracted to her, but it was more than just physical which was weird considering how different we were. Not that the physical attraction wasn't enjoyable in and of itself.

"I don't know you." Her words brought me back from wherever my mind had gone. She sounded confident which was okay because the more I looked at her the more certain I was that I didn't know her either. There's no way I would have forgotten this girl.

"I don't think we've ever met before, but I've seen those eyes before." Another possibility came to mind. "Do you have a sister?"

"Only child." She turned back to her drink, ready to dismiss me once more. I wracked my brain in frustration.

"I'm certain I've seen you before," I insisted. "Only, you looked different back then." That made her frown.

"How so?"

"Well, happier for one thing." I didn't quite groan at my choice in words, but it was a close thing. I'd let my frustration get to me and I answered without thinking. Thankfully, she didn't sound particularly offended.

"Then it must have been a long time ago." Her expression grew closed. It was clear that this girl wasn't in a good place. It was equally obvious that she wasn't the type to share her woes with a stranger so I let the subject drop.

It was tougher to do than you'd think because despite her lack of expression, the emotions behind her statement were plain to see. It was all in her eyes. There was some sort of sorrow buried deep that was weighing her down tonight and I couldn't help wonder what it was.

"Not giving up yet?" she sighed. I guess I'd been staring at her in silence a little too long. The stool next to her opened up right at that moment. I sat in it almost without thought.

"Apparently not." She didn't seem amused.

"Look, if I'm really bothering you, say the word and I'll leave." I waited but she didn't say anything. I could tell she was tempted, but instead she went back to her drink. There wasn't much left so I took that as a sign. "Can I buy you another?"

"Why not?" she asked, still not smiling. "This place in expensive."

"You think this is expensive?" It took me a moment to get the bartender's attention. "Wait until happy hour ends."

"I won't be here that long." I guess I needed to work fast. It sounded like she was planning on bailing soon.

"You're not from around here, are you?" Wow, was I going to use all the bad pickup lines on her tonight or what?

"How could you tell?" Her question was sarcastic as she glanced at her duffle meaningfully, but I didn't mind. After all, she was letting me buy her a drink which was a good sign as far as I was concerned. She ordered a beer and I followed suit. They were quickly delivered and I paid.

"I'm Colin, by the way." I thought she was going to refuse to tell me her name when she brought her glass to her lips instead of replying, but after she took a sip she turned and faced me.

"Faith." I was a little taken back when she held out her hand, but that didn't stop me from taking it in mine and shaking it briefly. I felt an almost electric connection between us as soon as we touched. I guess I should have been surprised, but by this point I was sort of expecting it. It was all I could do to contain my attraction to her.

On the other hand, I was pretty sure Faith was a bit blindsided. She tried to hide her reaction, but her expressive eyes gave her away. I smiled slowly. For the first time since I came over to this side of the bar I felt myself relaxing.

"I've always liked that name." It was the truth too.

"Not me," she replied. "I hated it when I was a kid. In fact, I used my middle name instead until recently."

"What changed?" I was watching her carefully. She paused before answering.

"Me." There was that deep sadness again hidden behind a shell of cold reserve. I hoped she'd say more, but Faith fell silent and went back to sipping her beer. I took a pull from mine as well.

"You're not going to make this easy, are you?" She gave me yet another look, but this one wasn't quite so cold.

"I told you I wasn't in the mood."

"Yes, you did," I said agreeably. "But you didn't ask me to leave when I gave you the chance so I figure there's hope."

"Maybe I just wanted a free beer." She was holding up her glass to make her point.

"Not just." One look at her eyes and I knew I was right. "By the way, what name did you used to go by? Maybe that will jog my memory."

"You're definitely being tenacious with this whole 'We've met before' thing." She didn't really seem bothered by it though. In fact, I think she sort of enjoyed it, like we were playing some sort of game. "My friends used to call me Carrie." She raised eyebrow as if daring me to tell her how I knew her. I thought hard, but the name meant nothing to me. Two or three Carries came to mind, but none of them were her.

"I got nothing," I finally admitted. "How about telling me your last name?"

"Not going to happen. I don't know you well enough for that." She almost smiled. Almost. I was getting to her.

"So, what brings you to town?" I asked, trying to keep the conversation going.

"You were right. I'm just passing through."

"Going home for the holidays?" I thought it was a good guess and she even nodded in agreement, but the humor that started to form fled from her eyes and she finished half her beer in two swallows. I clearly wasn't the only one not looking forward to Christmas, but I had a feeling she had a much better reason. Whatever it was, she didn't want to talk about it. At least not yet.

~~You can say there's no such thing as Santa, but as for me and Grandpa we believe~~

The crowd applauded the two drunks as they finished their song. There was also a comment or two thrown back and forth between them and a few other guys at one of the tables that I was betting were their friends. If not, a fight would have broken out. Only true friends can insult each other like that without repercussions.

"Thank God that's over." I deciding a change in subject was needed once again.

"It was pretty bad," she agreed and relaxed slightly.

"But not the worst of the night by far," I sighed, remembering some of the earlier singers. "Be thankful you weren't here when someone decided to sing the Alvin and the Chipmunks' Christmas Song."

"You're not serious." The look she gave me made me grin.

"Sadly, I am, but don't worry. It was so bad that the guy running the Karaoke promised not to let anyone else pick that song again tonight."

"Amen." Faith took another, smaller sip from her beer. She looked better. I guess changing the subject worked. Well, either that or the beer was doing its job. It was time to lighten the mood.

"So, are you planning on singing tonight?" She looked at me with a raised eyebrow, but I wasn't put off. "Come on, it's not that farfetched. You're sitting in a karaoke bar with a guitar case."

"These people wouldn't be interested in the kind of Christmas Carol I'd sing."

I wasn't quite ready to give up on trying to convince her to take the stage, but quickly became distracted when another song began. The girl singing it wasn't nearly as drunk as the two guys before her. That was too bad. I think she would have done better if she had been.

~~Santa Baby, just slip a sable under the tree, for me~~

"Ugh, this one is going to be painful."

"Eartha Kitt she's not," Faith agreed. We listened in silence for a few moments. The singer was trying to sound sexy, but failing miserably. I literally cringed at one point and I'm certain I wasn't the only one, but the girl seemed oblivious. Maybe she was as drunker than I originally thought. God, I hoped so, for her sake.

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