Some people believed Casey Evans to be a natural-born heartbreaker, but deep down inside she had always known the truth. She'd been born an ugly duckling and spent her childhood wallowing away in low self-esteem and secondhand clothing. As far as outer appearances had gone well, Casey had needed a lot of work in her younger years.
At the age of thirteen however, life had shifted around, more or less when she ditched the glasses and braces, grew out her tomboy haircut, and started wearing push-up bras and tank tops. Suddenly Casey was the object of affection for the pre-pubescent and hormonal classmates that had spent the entirety of their school lives either ignoring, or making fun of her.
It was official. Casey Evans got hot.
And it happened so quickly that nobody ever saw it coming. Summer vacation has a nasty way of sneaking up on people, but when she'd returned to school that fall, she felt their eyes flitting up and down her body, objectifying her. And like any girl would have done, she preened her hair and giggled foolishly.
This was probably the beginning of the demise of Casey Evans.
"You look lost." Casey commented to the cute boy sitting next to her at the bar, holding her bottle of beer between her thumb and forefinger. She tipped it gently into her mouth and washed away the taste of the cigarette she had just stubbed out.
"Pardon?" he asked, looking around and unsure if she had been speaking to him.
"I mean, what is that you're drinking? Vodka and soda water?" she didn't mean to come off sounding rude, but that was just a part of her voice.
He narrowed his dark brown eyes at her and accepted the challenge.
"Actually, it's straight."
Casey laughed and raised her beer in a complimentary cheers-gesture. To him it appeared as though she was letting down her guard, her tough-girl act, but to anyone who truly knew Casey … well, they would have known that this was merely the way she operated.
"Another, please!" she slapped down a bill onto the counter and averted her eyes from the grimace of the bartender as he picked up the sopping wet bill from the counter.
"So what brings you to a place like the Dungeon at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday, stranger?" Casey grabbed her beer and spun her body to face away from the bar and towards the nearly empty bar, supporting herself with nothing but her elbows and exposing her tattooed arms. Like a spider, she preferred to intimidate her victims before even attempting to spin a web.
"One of two reasons, madam. I'm either a chronic, insufferable and miserable alcoholic, " the nameless man took a sip of his straight vodka and celebrated a pause, "or I don't like the night life."
Casey assessed him thoroughly using only her peripherals, a skill she'd picked up in her freshman year of high school. He wore a white t-shirt, covered in a dark blue dress shirt, nearly buttoned to the top. His jeans were those terrible and tacky pre-faded deep blue denim, with holes already torn. His eyes were a dark brown framed with thick and adorable eyelashes, and his hair was a natural black cut short and carefully tousled with either gel or mousse, she couldn't tell from far away.
"Too many girls like me in one place is a bit too much for you?"
"It's not the girls like you that keep me away." He re-adjusted himself so that he was sitting sideways in his seat and angled his body slightly more towards hers. "I have no problems with girls like you, who show up in the middle of the day. And you never did tell me what exactly you were doing here at this hour."
"I work interesting hours." Casey replied, not making eye contact once.
"And what is it exactly you do for work?"
"Not yet." She said to him firmly. "I don't even know your name."
"Landon McKenna." He thrust his hand in her direction and she shook it with a smile and a response.
"It's nice to meet you, Landon. I'm Casey. Now we have those mandatory introductions out of the way at least."
As it has a nasty habit of doing, an awkward silence found its way in and crept into the air pushing the two apart and creating an unidentifiable block and the moments ticked by as the top forty music blasted quietly from the sub-par bar speakers and Casey and Landon had no idea what to say to each other. But Casey was the type of girl to find amusement in someone else feeling awkward, and knew when she was being subtly stared at out of the corner of someone else's eye, so she started playing with her hair and smiled coyly with the side of her mouth that he couldn't see.
Being as Casey was not the type of girl to do so, eventually Landon broke the silence. "So. Now that you know my name, what is it you do for work?"
"Your persistence is amusing but nope, sorry." She smiled and finished the last sip of beer.
"Then tell me something else about yourself."
Casey was caught off-guard. A thousand little thoughts flew through her mind and she tried to gauge what exactly it was that Landon wanted to hear, and what she could tell him that would intrigue him just enough without scaring him away.
"I'm twenty-one. My natural hair color is blonde but don't ever tell anyone that. I was born and raised here but I've lived in cities all around the province since I moved out at the age of sixteen. I dropped out of high school and didn't get my diploma until I was nineteen, and haven't done anything with that since. I'm a terrible driver. And I should be the kind of girl that keeps you out of this bar when the sun goes down."
Landon sat in silence for a few moments before finally asking, "You don't think all that highly of yourself, do you? I mean you can sit there and pretend like you know that you're all that, and I think you are, but at the same time it really bothers you. You're just fantastic at hiding it."
Casey spun to stare at him and got nothing but the side of his face as he demurely sipped his vodka and avoided her eyes. She was instantly infuriated and slammed her beer on the counter.
"Don't assume that you know me. You only just met me."
"Don't assume that I should be afraid of you. I only just met you."
"You are incredibly irritating."
"Then why haven't you left yet?"
Casey didn't have the right answer and so she chose to keep her mouth shut and her eyes off of Landon. She stared straight forward with an expressionless face; it was all part of the game.
"I'll have another vodka and soda, and whatever she's drinking." She heard Landon say to the bartender and looked over at him.
"You were right." He sloshed around the few remaining ice cubes. "It's not straight."
She smiled and took the seat beside him. "And here you had me thinking that I had you pegged all wrong."