"You’re still the only person who’s ever called me that," she mused, smiling softly as he tried to force himself to use her actual name. "Childhood friends would never have worked—I mean, it would have, but then you’d get famous and we’d eventually grow apart, but I guess that’s not too different to how things ended up." And this was reminiscent to the argument they had one too many times about whether or not he had changed after becoming famous, but they never seemed to have reached a conclusion on that and she doubted that they would have even if they had known each other longer. "Stick to Spenny then, but no one else is allowed to call me that. I’m supposed to be incredibly intimidating. You’re ruining my false reputation," she teased.
He hadn’t mentioned too much about her, but the one detail he did say was a big one. Before Spencer, Darren wouldn’t take the same girl out twice and eventually, the pair had dated, but that was short lived. Their two months or so was hardly anything in comparison to the seven he had with this new girl, making the blonde curious as to who she was. “I’m proud of you—is that weird to say?” she asked, chuckling. “But really, if she’s been with you for that long, I’m sure she’s lovely.”
"Oh right. Intimidating. Because you’re just terrifying. I’m practically shaking in my pants just sitting this close to you. I’m sweat profusely with panic that you might snap and order the skating mafia to murder me for saying the wrong thing," jokes were all that could come out of his mouth as he tried to make himself feel less like having a standard conversation with the girl he’d almost forgotten about until a few months a go. It didn’t feel all that natural or normal, but he was determined to make it seem light, like this is what he was now, some fun-loving guy who doesn’t make it weird that last time he’d seen her he’d done something like confess his love for her. And then bringing up Zoe made everything worse. He scratched his head, the side of his neck, anything that might distract him from saying too much or too little or showing too much. He wasn’t sure what the protocol was with exes and talking about currents. "It’s a little weird, but I appreciate it. Or mentally unsound. I haven’t decide what the real answer is yet."
"Fine, but don’t call me Spenny," she countered with a sweet smile on her lips though the expression turned genuine as he began recalling the kinds of girls he managed to find, the descriptions fitting their relationship, bringing back a sense of nostalgia for what had and could have been. The last time she had seen him was years ago, their last conversation occurring on an earlier date when he was saying goodbye to Easton and more importantly, to her. The words exchanged were hazy, but she remembered the gist of the conversation, the feelings that were admitted, the way her hand had curled into his as she drove him to the airport…
but she was immediately pulled from those thoughts at the answer to her question, causing her to look at him curiously with an expression that conveyed her surprise. “Really?” she asked skeptically. “You, Darren Gantz, have a girl waiting for you at home? Huh…” she trailed off, masking her expression with something more friendly. “So maybe things have changed. I’m happy for you—if you are.”
He shook his head as he said “Now, Spenny-encer, I just can’t promise you that I can do that. It’s been too long. Just be thankful we weren’t childhood friends, then I’d have some horribly embarrassing nickname and I’d be forced to tell everyone to call you by this name you’d rather no one knew about,” he explained as if it were the only obvious answer. “So long story short, you’re never going to not be Spenny, Spencer,” he shrugged.
And then this was the conversation he hadn’t wanted to have with Spencer. His first love. “Yes. Don’t seem to surprised,” he tried to make light of the conversation, the drumming getting quicker but lighter on the table. “I’m a very mature twenty-six year old.” Darren had to pause before he continued. He wanted to make everything seem like it was no big deal, but it was. It really was. “I am,” he nodded. “It’s a weird feeling being with the same girl for seven months, but somehow I’ve done it.” Darren couldn’t help the smile that started to creep up on him at the thought of Zoe. She had done it, changed him for the better and helped him in the final stages of growing up to where he was now seeming to be a much better man.
“Oh, please. If your friend over there actually wanted a challenge, he would still be sitting in your seat,” she pointed out. “You don’t want a challenge, just someone who’s playing hard to get, but will eventually give in and go home with you at the end of the night.” Despite the conversation topic and how awkward it could have been between exes, Spencer found herself at ease, falling into their familiar argument style, either having grown more stubborn or a better debater as the years had passed, but never losing the competitive edge to her voice, the gleam in her eyes. She had adopted a sense of confidence in her abilities, priding herself in what she had managed to accomplish at her age, but hopefully still staying humble about it, so what could have been a smirk resting on her lips was merely a soft smile, wanting to hear his counterargument.
“Right…sometimes I forget our mothers are still friends…I’m not surprised she told you, though I imagine having found out would have been…” she trailed off, not even bothering to imagine how that conversation had gone, but knowing Becky, she would have thought nothing of it other than just passing along information. “I met Stace not too long ago. This bar was recommended to me when I first got here and I’ve kind of been hanging out here since—when I’m not elsewhere.” She rolled her eyes playfully at the jab, shaking her head once more. “I would have hoped you would have gotten nicer with age, but I guess some things don’t change—though I don’t see you going around and flirting with anyone either..”
"Oh, hey, don’t get all argumentative with me, Spenny. I’m just the poor guy who has to come play wingman for the guy who thinks he can have anyone, but hasn’t gotten laid in weeks and not for lack of severally trying." Normally, he would have gone on, but he was kind of hoping he could avoid the topic of picking up girls and his relationship status for a little while. “Maybe he does just want someone to play along with the game, but those aren’t the kind of girls I’m good at finding. I’m good at finding the ready to go right now, the kind that take months to just admit they might not hate you, and the ones you get off on the wrong foot with which eventually leads to something.” He hinted at his current relationship, but it could have also been something with Spencer. It wasn’t enough to give himself away.
Except then she brought up his flirting, or lack of it. “I’m talking with you? Why would I want to be off flirting with other girls when I can have this conversation and be amazed that you haven’t insulted me somehow within the last few minutes,” he joked before taking a breath. “In all honesty, I don’t have to spend my night pinning and chasing after a girl for a night of fun. I actually have someone waiting for me back home,” he nodded at the last part slowly, his fingers drumming against the wooden table top.
He had used the nickname so casually that it was almost as if they were back in Easton, that they hadn’t just spent four years apart without a word in between. A red hue covered her cheeks instantly, an occurrence that hadn’t happened in quite some time, having grown out of getting so easily flustered by compliments, but somehow triggered at the six letters. She ran her fingers through her hair, hoping he wouldn’t comment on the shade, but he was caught up in his own spiel, rambling more than the Darren she remembered, her gaze following towards his friend. “Clearly..He’s going for the wrong crowd. Someone younger might have quickly fallen for it, though, his chances could have been higher if you went around introducing him to girls. They’re more likely to know who you are.”
His lengthy list of questions caused her to raise a brow, biting back a smirk as he finished, gently shaking her head. “I don’t think I mentioned what I was doing here—though I guess the textbook might have given it away,” she acknowledged, tapping her fingers against the cover before removing her hands and leaning back in her seat. “I’ve been okay, though that’s a very general answer to give when asked about—what? Five years of your life?” she asked, chuckling softly, smiling at the mention of the other boy. “No, and it would have been weird if he had. We broke up ages ago,” she said, nonchalantly shrugging her shoulders. “So it’s just me, finally living it up in LA, if you can even call it that with the amount of reading we need to do for our classes.”
"You think? I’ll pass the information all, although the having me introduce him is a bad idea. We tried that before and it was way too easy. We found the girl he’d like to take home, she was with a friend which made it perfect and I opened with the introductions and they recognized me and Nate from the movie we did together and then he went home with one of them and well, there was no challenge," Darren shrugged, realizing he was over sharing, but he had decided it didn’t matter to him if he over shared or not. After all, none of this was something you couldn’t have found online or in a gossip rag if you’d searched enough.
"Those, and my mother and the bartender seem to know a lot about you. Honestly, the two of them are worse than some gossip sites sometimes in terms of trying to stir things up." He fell silent as he listened to the rest of her answers, nodding along to show his interest. Darren wanted to make a comment about the break-up, he really did, but he knew it wasn’t his place and he wasn’t sure what he would say. That he was happy because now he had a chance again? He didn’t. That he wishes it had happened back when he was at Easton so they could have seen where this would have gone? That’d be insensitive. Instead he settled on, "I see you’re as boring as ever. Although I approve of a bar over a coffee shop, to get work down the former’s probably your better bet."
The name had slipped passed her lips involuntary, a knee jerk reaction to the person sitting across from her, but she hadn’t been given enough time to register what was going on when he started speaking, her expression probably one of utter confusion, though what he had said was true. This was his town and she shouldn’t have been so surprised to see him here, but she was. Los Angeles was a big enough city that they could have gone in different circles and never passed each other or shared a glance, but here he was sitting across from her in the one bar she had begun to frequent.
“Please tell me this isn’t your usual spot,” she offered, trying to cover up her immediate reaction, knowing full well he had caught her off guard and needing to regain her composure. “If it is, I might need to pick a different place. We don’t do too well in close proximity,” she admitted. “Though, I hadn’t expected to see you—um…hi.”
"Hasn’t been for… Oh, five months?" he paused to think it over. He hadn’t been going much further than Central L.A. in the last few months, there wasn’t much of a reason to since everything he needed was in the area. "No need to worry, Spenny. I’ll be out of your hair after tonight. I’m just here because my friend, whom I think you met, he’s the one you just brutally turned down, I’m not going to hear the end of that one so thank you, but more to the point. He thought maybe he could pick up girls outside of Hollywood easier than inside of it with the whole ‘I’m an actor’ line," Darren explained and then looked over his shoulder at his friend who was failing to pick up a girl near the bar. "And clearly he was very wrong."
It felt weird to be with Spencer again, or close to her, but he wasn’t going to let that show. After all, he was in a committed relationship with someone and there was no reason to feel weird around someone he hadn’t dated since senior year. “Hello, Spencer Michaels. How’ve you been? Studying Law at UCLA now are we? What happened to you in Easton? Did Bas come with you?” he asked her, turning his full attention back to his ex.
It had been months since he had last stepped foot in this bar, but the familiar ring of the chime welcomed him in, putting a smile to his lips as his friend patted his shoulder, picking out women in the vicinity that he would eventually try to talk to in the hopes of taking one home. Though amused at the other boy’s antics, Darren’s agenda for the night was merely tagging along. Gone were the days where he would pick up women in bars, having finally settled down again, only coming out tonight to play wingman and relax, enjoying the feeling of finally being home.
The bartender Stacey knew him well, but was tending to other customers when the pair took their place at the bar, scourging the scene for the right person. “What about them?” Nate asked, nodding in the direction of a booth full of women, barely old enough to drink, all in the lower end of their twenties, only for Darren to shake his head. “You can never approach a group that large. Mess up, and there’s too many witnesses.” He paused, glancing at the other tables before picking out a red head and pointing her out and asking, “What about her?” which resulted in a scoff accompanied by a “I’m single, not desperate.”
There was no getting through to him and to extent, Darren didn’t want to try, knowing that he was once the same way and eventually, Nate would grow out of it, not be so judgmental. For now, he’d let him have his fun, one meaningless night after another, until maybe he’d see the value in something more.
It was then that Stacey came back around, pausing behind the boys as they looked on and smirking to herself. “If you’re looking for a challenge, the blonde in the back booth hasn’t given the time of day to anyone who’s approached her tonight.”
“See,” Nate exclaimed, smacking Darren playfully. “This is the kind of wingman I need. Can I get a shot of your strongest, Stace? I’m going in.”
The pair watched him down the alcohol, bidding him good luck as he left his stool, making his way to the back of the bar before Darren turned away from him, chuckling to himself. “He doesn’t have a shot in hell, does he?”
“Not one,” Stacey replied. “Spencer’ll rip him to shreds.”
The name still managed to make his lip curl upwards slightly in nostalgia of a person and a past that seemed so long ago. “What’s her story?” he asked curiously, taking a sip from the beer placed in front of him.
“Easy, superstar. Last I heard, you were a taken man. What would the missus think?” Stacey replied teasingly.
“Just curious, that’s all.”
“Well…she’s new in town, decided to give the West Coast a try, studying at UCLA…law, I think,” she added on, trying to recall the details the blonde had once told her, but the last word had caught Darren’s interest more than the rest had. The odds were slim; surely there would have been a couple dozen blonde Spencers interested in law, but he couldn’t help his curiosity. Excusing himself, he got up, making his way back towards the booth Nate had gone to not too long ago and pausing as his friend got up, catching sight of the blonde sitting there, the light from the bulb hanging above her radiating off her features, illuminating her expression whilst she rolled her far too familiar brown eyes.
Back settled into the padding behind her, legs crossed at her knees, Spencer Michaels flipped the page of her textbook, hoping the material would eventually sink in. With a week till the start of classes, she had begun her reading early, knowing she’d have to get through each chapter at least twice before she knew what it was the writers were actually talking about and she hated the idea of going into a lecture hall with no sense of what they were learning. It had been a year since she had sat behind a desk, her handwriting had long gone illegible in comparison to what it once was, and with the usual dumb blonde stereotype that made her cringe, she figured the extra time studying couldn’t hurt.
Though maybe her place to study would need to be rethought as Stacey pushed boy after boy in her direction, which was a mix of amusing, frustrating, and incredibly distracting, but she figured it was the price she paid for picking a bar over a coffee house. She never seemed interested, sparing no more than a few minutes with anyone brave enough to approach, but the ones coming around tonight must have been for Stacey’s own enjoyment. They were cocky and unintelligent, leaving with muttered comments under their breath without realizing that they had been the one to disturb her moment of peace, instead of the other way around.
As the next contender took the place across from her, she barely glanced up before returning to her book, rereading the same passage for the third time, which had only fueled her frustration. Had that not been the case, the following conversation might have gone differently, but because it was, her attitude towards Nate was far from pleasant.
After a few moments of silence, she eventually looked up at him and asked bluntly, “can I help you with something or were all the other booths full?”
“Ooh feisty,” Nate replied, grinning from ear to ear. “I like that.”
“Charming,” she said, immediately bemused by his reaction and returning to her book, keeping herself from smirking when Nate continued with what he thought would be his selling point tonight.
“I’m an actor.”
“Which either an interesting name or your occupation, but doesn’t answer the question I posed and is thus, no use to me.”
“Occupation. For a girl reading a text book, you’re not very bright.”
“Apparently, neither are you. I’m fairly certain you’re familiar with the term uninterested, but if not, use your next paycheck to buy yourself a dictionary. It might be of some use.”
“Are you always this defensive?”
And that was the last drop in the bucket, causing her to lift her gaze completely so she was studying his face when she spoke, a nice one at that, but she was far from complimenting it now. “Let me spell this out for you. You were the one who strolled up to my booth, fully capable of seeing that I was doing something and not paying you any attention whatsoever, despite that, you still chose to talk to me and instead of being polite or charming, you were cocky and probably hoping to score, thinking I would drop everything I was previously doing to take an interest in your career simply because you’re an actor and everything that might entail. I’m sure you expected me to fawn over you, ask for an autograph, see what other celebrities you might know, but really, you picked the wrong crowd,” she finished, leaning back into her seat once more. “Know your audience. That might help you out down the line.”
And like the other boys, he stood up, muttering the same string of obscenities as he left the booth, his spot filling within seconds of him leaving, making the blonde sigh in frustration. “Did I not just—Darren.”
It had to be her. It just had to be. After all, there may be other blonde Spencer’s studying law in L.A. but that doesn’t mean this one isn’t his. What were the chances, that only a few weeks after his mother told him Spencer Michaels moved to town, there was a girl in a bar he used to frequent who could very well be her. And worst case scenario it wasn’t her so he went over and apologized for his friend’s behaviour. Best case…. Well, he wasn’t entirely sure what the best case scenario would be, but it wouldn’t hurt him to at least figure it out.
It was her. He’d recognize Spencer from a hundred miles away even if it’d been ages since he’d seen her, either in person, or on TV. The Olympics were the last time he’d seen her, but she hadn’t changed one bit. As he walked up, Nate was walking away with a look of defeat.
"Dude, she’s not into it," Nate sulked.
"I know, Nate. I know her. Or used to," he said, ignoring the look his friend was giving him and patting him on the shoulder as a way of saying he’d explain it all later before sliding into the seat his friend had just vacated.
"You sound surprised to see me," he smiled, getting comfortable. "I mean, it is my town. I’ve lived here for years. You on the other hand? You’re new to town. I’m the one who gets to be surprised."
In a few months maybe for a week. I have two movies that need finishing and that won’t be until at least May, Sherlly. I’m sure you already knew that since you’re weirdly close to my family and anyone who works for me.
You know, apparently Jenn misses you bringing her a coffee and then just staying on the set, gift wrapping my golf cart.
Getting you a bracelet? That’s a silly thing to regret.
Is there something you do regret?
That’s a vague question.