Game Time

All eyes were on Deirdre when she walked into the room. She hated times like this. Those stares, what they were thinking behind their glassy eyes – always made her uncomfortable. Wet circles began forming under her armpits.

Great. Now they could make fun of her hygiene as well as her clothes, her chewed nails.

The room was quiet a second too long; then Jed stood up. “Glad you could make it, Dee.” No one called her Dee. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a Bud Light. He handed it to her and she nodded thanks, took a short sip of the watery liquid. It wasn’t even cold. Ugh, how could they drink that shit when there were so many decent beers out there?

Conversation started again. Larry launched into a monologue that left Deirdre dazed and everyone else entertained. She’d probably interrupted him by showing up. He finally stopped to take a breath and everyone except Deirdre laughed. He must have gotten to the punch line.

Tammy and Britt held their bottles up to Larry in a mock salute and clicked their bottles together.

They were drinking India Pale Ale from Deirdre’s favorite microbrewery. Then Deirdre noticed that everyone was drinking good beer – Larry, Jed, the rest of them.

WTF?

Deirdre imagined pouring her warm Bud Light into the big bowl of chips on the coffee table, or better yet, down Jed’s back. It was the first time she smiled all day.

Instead, she walked to the bar sink and tipped her bottle high, watching the foamy liquid swirl down the drain. She caught Jed staring at her as she opened the refrigerator and got herself a bottle of IPA. She took a long draught from the bottle and stared back. Much better.

So this was the “man cave” Jed talked about incessantly at work. She looked around. Testosterone oozed from the black leather couches, the big flat panel TV, the dartboard hanging on the wall.

She’d been included – inadvertently, she’d assumed – in an email inviting the staff to his house for potluck and the game on Sunday. Deirdre hated football, thought she’d leave before the game started.

But her new year’s resolution had been to get out of her own skin more, to act normal. This was an opportunity for her to at least try. Even her therapist would be pleased.

Her clothes were, as usual, all wrong for the afternoon. She’d worn dark slacks and a twin set. Everyone else was in jeans and a logo team shirt.

“Who’s playing?” This was wrong; she realized that even as the words were coming out. The looks ranged from incredulous to pitying. Well, screw them. They probably had no idea what was happening politically halfway around the world, let alone halfway across the city, if it wasn’t carrying a football team banner.

The silence lasted an instant too long. Tammy rolled her eyes for Britt’s benefit, and Britt barely stifled a chuckle. That did it.

Deirdre would play her own game.

“Hey!” Deirdre’s voice was jovial. “Who wants to play darts before the game?” Her co-workers looked at her. They’d never heard that upbeat voice. No one spoke.

I said, who wants to play darts?” This time her tone was different. Tammy shifted uneasily in the leather loveseat. Jed stood up. No one spoke.

Deirdre grabbed the darts from the corkboard. They were expensive darts – heavy, weighted just right. The kind she liked. At least Jed had picked those well. She aimed for him first. He dropped silently to the shag carpeting.

Were they all really moving in slow motion, or was it her adrenalin? Deirdre was able to aim slowly, carefully, accurately. Soon she’d used all the darts, and the room was quiet.

She stepped over Britt’s body on her way to the refrigerator. She wanted to grab a couple of beers to take home.

She might watch the football game after all.

**

[Props to Cathryn Grant and her story An Extra Man in the House for planting the seed for this one in my warped brain this morning.]

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