Allegiance by Chiah Wilder

Tank





Tank observed the party he’d been dreading for weeks. For all he cared, the chatty guests in summer suits and shimmering cocktail dresses; the loud, dull music; the bright lights from the chandelier flooding out the candlelight; and the thin woman in a barely there dress with big lips and bigger breasts sauntering in his direction, could disappear in a puff of smoke.

The blonde flashed him a smile, showing her impossibly white teeth. That’s my cue. Lifting one corner of his mouth in a weak half-smile, he turned and made his way through the crowd, in need of a drink.

Gripping the gray laminate bar top, he ordered a bourbon and waited patiently while an animated group of women pushed up against him.

Once the drink was placed in front of him, he dug in his pocket and dropped a few singles into the tip jar. Pushing his way through the line of guests waiting to place their orders, he found a spot away from the crowd and took a deep draw of his drink, savoring the fiery smooth taste.

A pat on the back drew Tank’s attention. Spinning around, a wide grin spread across his face when he saw one of his best friends.

“I see you found the bar,” Dawson said, bumping Tank’s fist with his.

He lifted the glass. “I always do.”

“When did you get here?”

“Not too long ago. I didn’t expect so many people.”

Dawson laughed. “Me neither, but Tabby and her mother wanted a big bash. If it had been up to me, I’d have cut the list way down.”

“Get used to not having a say in shit once you get hitched.” Tank threw back the rest of the bourbon and stared at his friend. “Are you sure about deleting those dating apps and shutting out all the other chicks, buddy? It’s not too late to back out.”

“I’m not looking to back out.”

“It’s ’cause you’re thinking with your dick. I know how that goes.” When Dawson grew quiet, Tank cleared his throat. “My history with marriage isn’t much to go by, but—”

“This is my engagement party, dude. I think it’s a little late for the buyer beware bullshit. I know what I’m doing, and I’m good. Be happy for me.” Dawson squeezed Tank’s shoulder and grinned, looking him dead in the eyes. “Your history consists of one woman, one divorce, and you let that experience keep you from taking a chance on finding the one. So Trish wasn’t it. You guys were young, so give yourself a break.”

“Doesn’t excuse what happened, does it?”

“You grew as a person, didn’t you?”

Tank winked at him. “Easy, there. You’re sounding like some fuckin’ daytime talk show shrink.”

Snorting, Dawson rolled his eyes. “One bad experience doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll ever have. That’s just loaded wisdom I’m trying to impart to you. If you could find someone like Tabby, you’d know instantly that all the BS you went through before doesn’t matter.”

“Well, all I can say is, I hope your marriage turns out better than mine did.” Tank bumped Dawson’s shoulder with his, ignoring the bitter burn at the center of his chest. Divorce was a bitch, but so were most women. End of story.

“Tabby’s pretty special. I’m going to love making you eat your words when you meet the right one. Mark my words, bro, it’ll happen.”

“I’m not lookin’ for anything serious, so that’s not gonna happen. And besides, I’m good with the way things are.” Chuckling, he added, “There are just too many chicks to settle down with just one.”

“I’m beginning to think you’re hopeless.” Shaking his head, Dawson sighed. “Well, I guess I better go mingle. Behave, my man.” With a cheesy-ass grin, he clapped Tank on the shoulder and disappeared inside the tightly packed crowd.

Tank turned his attention to the backyard of the mansion that Tabby’s parents had rented by the beach. The view was epic, and so was everything else that came with the hefty price tag to impress their guests. Breathing in through his nose, he exhaled slowly, contemplating how much longer he’d have to endure hobnobbing with the beautiful people before it was considered polite to leave for the night.

He watched Dawson walk up to a tall blonde and wrap his arms around her. When Tabby grinned up at her fiancé, Tank chuckled, knowing full well the couple was still in their honeymoon phase. Once everything was said and done, though, nothing would be the same. He knew that firsthand and hoped his friend was ready for the challenges ahead.