TW // ALCOHOL
"You ... Why are you here?" Luke demanded in a solemn tone, pronouncing each of his words in slow motion.
He insisted on the word you with so much pressure as if it were the only thing he desired to know.
You couldn't really follow who he meant by you. Ms. Rey had her brows pressed together in confusion, and her smile had faded. She darted her eyes at Professor Ren, whose entire face pulsed with tiny veins. He clenched his jaw, gripped his hands into fists, and breathed through his nose like a bull who was about to attack.
They say bulls get angry when they see the color red. If this would be true, then Professor Ren would see in Luke the beautiful color of so many red things. However, this was a lie. Bulls are partially color blind and are actually just irritated by the movement of the cape. And since Luke didn't have one, then Professor Ren had no reason to attack him, right?
"Ben," Ms. Rey muttered in his direction.
Like a ghost that passed through a living body, Professor Ren blinked as his eyes adjusted at Ms. Rey.
Softly she tried to reach his hand with her fingers, yet this was a red flag. He flinched at her touch and gawked down at her.
"Never use that name again!" he scoffed through gritted teeth.
Ms. Rey's gasped in shock, confused at his change of behavior. Her eyelashes were blinking and trembling in fear. She moved a step back from him, looking helpless at you and Luke.
It appeared that for the first time, Ms. Rey now saw what Professor Ren always showed you. His true self. His monster self. Considering that a few minutes before Luke showed up, he gently stroked her arm, wanting to pay for her the drink like the false gentleman he pretended to be. Even Mr. Hux was more gentlemanly than Professor Ren.
You noticed a tear from Ms. Rey's left eye flowing down her pink cheek. When she felt that her tear had reached her chin, she turned her gaze to the ground and quickly wiped it away so that no one would notice.
"Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom," Ms. Rey notified with a pressed smile that tore her apart and left.
You felt the urge to run after her and check if she was okay, but you didn't want to leave Luke alone with this monster. Who knows who would have died if you would let them both alone?
Professor Ren's intimidating look, which not only frightened Ms. Rey but you as well, had scared her away. And the tone in which he spoke to her? ... Intolerable.
While the other people in the room continued to chat, the reserved muteness at the bar was filled with emotions you couldn't think of. All you really needed now was a customer who would order a drink to quench this silence.
"If I knew you were here, I would never have stepped foot into this building," Professor Ren spattered in a disparaging tone.
His eyes were sharp daggers that were straightly pointing at Luke.
"Now that you're aware of my presence, you can leave," Luke hissed and held up his hand to gesture the way to the exit.
Professor Ren clasped his arms behind his body and pushed his chest out while giving him a big fake smile, which quickly faded.
"No. I changed my mind. I'd like to stay," he said calmly.
You stood there quiet next to Luke and a box full of beer bottles on the floor, observing this like a spectator who was just in the middle of a drama on a reality TV show. Too bad you didn't serve any popcorn at the bar.
Luke had not taken his eyes off your psychology professor. It was as if the fire full of anger inside him almost extinguished the blue water in his eyes.
The interest of a provocation was stuck to Professor Ren. His unexpected smirk worried you. What was his plan?
He glanced at you for a solid second and went into the direction of the sports hall, where as always, the game took place. When he was no longer in sight, you took a large sip of your bottle.
The game must have started since no one else was in the room.
"What the fuck just happened!" you spoke out loud, rubbing your forehead and cooling it off with the battle.
Luke took the large bottle of Vodka out of the fridge and placed it on the counter. He purred it in the glass, plopped himself on the chair, and took a large sip of it. And then he took his second glass. And his third. And so, one. Like a vicious circle. Like a routine.
He probably needed to understand what just happened with his own eyes. He stroked his beard in deep thoughts as some of the drops landed on the beard. His expression could be translated in every single language that one thing was sure. There was no way he was pleased about what he saw, or to be exact ... who he saw.
You weren't sure whether the same applied to Ms. Rey, but one thing was clear to you. It resembled like Professor Ren hated Luke as much as he hated you.
"Do you ... by any chance ... wanna tell me what just happened between the two of you?" you started the conversation by taking a sip of your soda.
"And why should I do that? It's not like you know him anyway," Luke replied coolly.
A cracked-up laugh escaped your lips as you nearly spluttered your drink on the floor.
" I — I really wish I didn't, but ... you know" —you shrugged your shoulders— "we live in a small world."
Luke set the glass on the floor and placed his hands on his legs.
"You know that guy?"
"He's my psychology professor," you stated and took a quick sip as if you needed to remember who he was to you. You didn't dare to look at Luke, out of fear, he might—
"And when were you planning on telling me this?" he shouted in a hushed tone, and out of rage, accidentally kicked the glass with his foot. It was so loud that you were sure that even Ms. Rey, who was still in the bathroom, heard it.
"I was about to inform you the last time I was here, but your cigarette break was more important," you shot back.
Abruptly he stood up, crawled under the chair to take the glass, and put it in the sink without saying anything further. He walked a little unbalanced, gathering the empty bottles and crumpled napkins from the stand tables. His rage and soon drunkenness that had clouded his face cleared as he placed the empty bottles on the counter.
The door of the bathroom slammed shut, and your gaze immediately shifted to the left side. Ms. Rey walked out from the corner, drying her face off with a paper towel. Despite the rouge that vanished away, her black mascara was still visible on the lashes.
"Ms. Rey, are you okay? Do you need anything?" you asked her considerately in a worried tone.
She approached the counter and gazed at you. With the bright eyes of an optimist, you waited for an honest answer. She sipped the last remains of the water and made a refreshing sound.
"Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking," she peeped with a bride smile on her face as if nothing happened.
However, through the eyes where the pain was noticeable the most, you knew that she lied.
Luke stood there half-drunk, nearly tripping at her feet as he rested his left elbow on the counter. She lifted her chin and looked into his eyes without saying anything.
"It's been a while," she said.
Luke nodded. "I never thought that after all those years, you would still be that little girl with the three small bumps on her head," he recited in a heart-warming tone with his blue eyes that began to radiate.
Ms. Rey started to chuckle and deeply gasped at Luke's weird way of greeting her.
"And you've decided to grow out your hair! The grey on your beard is showing off with the brown. It really suits you," she responded merrily, gesturing with her finger around her chin.
Luke rolled his eyes at her with lips pressed together while dabbing on her shoulder with his bionic hand.
"It's good to see you again, kid."
Ms. Rey nodded with a tiny smile, her eyes seeing in him the same man who had a completely different reaction towards the man who stood beside her.
"Thank you again for the drink. I think I better keep going. I don't want to miss the game," she noted and began to walk towards the entry door of the sports hall.
You smoothly parted your lips to call out to her one last time, like you always recounted at the moment someone was about to disappear. She briefly turned around and approached you.
You hopelessly wanted to understand the meaning of a word that swam in your brain before she would go into that crowded room.
"Before you went to the bathroom, you called Professor Ren ... Ben," you narrated to remember with crinkled eyes.
She opened her mouth, the memory drifting back into her mind. Her wrinkles appeared on her forehead as a huffed breath escaped her throat.
"I used to call him like that. It was kind of a nick—"
Luke's aggrieved clearing of his throat interrupted her sentence.
"Alright, c'mon, Rey, go watch the game and let the kid do her work," Luke declared in a definite tone.
And just like he wanted, she stepped away and walked into the sports hall.
Now you knew that Professor Ren's nickname that Rey gave him was Ben, and he despised it. Original. Almost like Ben Ten. Only just Ben Ren.
Luke observed the room like he would see the building for the first time while taping with his fingers on the counter. He whistled in enjoyment while you tried to wash the glasses with one hand, which was more challenging than you thought it was. Why does Luke always interrupt everyone when they're talking?
"It's alright, Granny. I see how you struggle with your injured hand to clean. Your mother phoned me and told me everything. I'll do the rest, go watch the game," he stated as he walked behind the bar.
You stopped and propped your hands on each side of the sink, hanging your head over it. Your eyes admired how the sink slowly filled up with water and soap. Of course, she had phoned him. Your mother had to somehow make sure that you were with people she knew who could keep an eye on you and confirm that you were with them. Your injured hand started to feel like something was swelling in it. Or maybe it was not in your hand but in your entire body. Like you were about to enter a room full of balloons, who tried to squish you. The only problem was that you could not burst them. Did that mean she didn't fully trust Qi'ra either?
"Please tell me what's going on with you and Professor Ren, or else I'm not leaving," you demanded in a serious tone.
"Well—" he picked up the box of beers and placed it in the corner. "You don't have to know everything. Especially not things about my past."
"You almost killed Professor Ren with your stare. What would have happened if I had walked behind Ms. Rey and left you two alone?"
"I have no idea what bullshit crap is currently running through your head, but absolutely nothing would happen," he quipped in his gravy tone.
Luke grabbed the empty bottles from the counter and placed them in the sink. It wasn't as if the sink was already full of empty glasses. Your patience with bottles and washing them was already over the edge, and Luke throwing even more bottles into the sink did not make you feel any better.
"Did you leave his mom all alone when you found out she was pregnant with your child, and now he hates you for that? Or did you throw up on his shoes when you were drunk?" you continued guessing until you would land on the right answer.
"Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong," Luke answered listlessly.
He took a deep breath as if he was planning on blowing up a balloon and looked over the shoulder to make sure the two of you were alone. Things Qi'ra definitely didn't do to avoid being overheard.
"I will so regret this," he commented to himself in a muffled tone.
You turned off the tap and looked at him with absolute attentiveness, curious of the story he was about to tell.
He glanced away from your eyes that sparked pure curiosity out of it as if they made him feel uncomfortable. He looked into the far distance as if time would take him back, and he would watch his own movie and judge his scene with an epic song playing in the background.
"Long before you learned the alphabet, I had failed ... as a basketball coach ... and as an uncle ... and I let it out on a frightened boy, who already felt like being stuck in the wrong life."
"Cool! And now we're the ones who are frightened of him. Oh, how the tables have turned." You instantly gave Luke a witty remark.
He narrowed his gaze at you, purple bags that looked like hell under his eyes. He looked at you the same way Professor Ren did. As if his patience with you was on the border. Like uncle, like nephew.
"Sorry, that was pretty stupid of me," you apologized, your eyes sinking with shame into your sockets.
If Luke was an uncle, then he had a sibling whom he never mentioned before. But then again, he never revealed anything about himself. Telling his story to you, a teenager with an installed camera in your room and an injured hand, was a big step for him. And just like you made a big step on accepting Qi'ra being now a half part-time babysitter for you, Luke did by sharing his personal life.
In the time when you first got to know Luke, you were convinced that the sports arena was his home because he was always the last to close the hall, and no one knew where exactly he lived. He was like a chameleon who adapted to the environment. He was good at hiding himself from the outside world.
Luke slowly sat down on the chair like an old man rethinking his life choices and mistakes with a muffled groan as he rubbed his palm on his leg.
"If it makes you feel any better, he doesn't like me either," you added to light up the mood.
"Can't imagine why."
You laughed slightly and looked at the sink again.
The way Luke greeted his nephew was strange and didn't quite match what he told you, but it was a small part. And who knows, maybe Luke was just trying to protect Professor Ren so it wouldn't look like his nephew was the only bad guy in this situation. He might even have done it on purpose so you wouldn't think worse of your professor. After all, you are the one who must tolerate him until July.
Luke was a good person. No matter what exactly happened to him and Professor Ren, you didn't want to drag him any further into his memory. You imagined him feeling guilty, and taking him back to the time that he would rather forget would only hurt him more. He admitted that he was not a good uncle and not a good basketball coach, which meant he realized his mistake and had now changed. And that was a great thing to do. How else could he ever grow into the man he was now?
"I appreciate that you opened up to me about your family. Really. I understand that it's not easy for you, and you'd rather bury it deep inside of a place that nobody would find. But I'm here for you whenever you feel like talking to someone," you said with a large smile and a kind tone so he would feel welcomed at any time.
"I feel better now. Thanks, kid," he responded in a friendly and relaxed tone, almost like it was the truth.
Your mood within yourself began to blossom, and you noticed so did his as well.
"If you don't mind, I'd like my hand to rest a little and ... also watch the game."
Luke gave you a silent nod of approval by pointing his head toward the sports hall.
You thanked him, and as you walked towards the door, you heard Luke's voice over again, shouting behind you.
"Just leave the stupid hat at the bar! You're here at a basketball game and not in a coven!"
On the spot, you let out a loud and probably overdramatic sight as you rolled your eyes. You turned around with a defeated and tired facial expression that almost fell to the floor. You wandered back like a zombie, hung your hat on the chair that Luke was still sitting on, and headed to the planned destination.
"If the Pirates, gonna 'in... hic..., I 'ave to drink... to fo-get this embar ... embar-rasse ... you 'now what I mean."
"Luke, you're drinking even though the Resistance has already won," you stated in a clear and precise tone.
With your hands folded over your chest, you sighted in deep annoyance as you watched how Luke fought not to fell on the floor while sitting on a chair. This is what happens when you leave Luke alone with alcohol.
"I'm on-ly din-king to celeb-ate! Ga-nny, let a man hasta la vita!"
You preferred sober Luke over Luke with alcohol in his blood, and in your surroundings, you believed that everyone did. He always found a new way of embarrassing himself and couldn't even speak correctly.
After one and a half long hours, the Resistance won a fair game against the Pirates. 85-76.
This time you were fully concentrated on the game, eyes fixed on the bouncing basketball flying through the hall. You didn't bother to look up Ms. Rey nor Professor Ren. You were so invested in the game that you forgot you were here with Qi'ra.
"You 'now Rer-ey ... 'as my ... hic... favorite basketballer," Luke continued with his nonsense.
"Oh, does that mean you were her coach when she played basketball as a teen?" you asked him as you stepped closer.
Luke's head was hanging on his shoulder, eyes battling to stay open.
"Yes ... yes ... batter than ... hic... emo boy."
You let out a short, muffled laugh, imagining that by the emo boy, he surely meant Professor Ren. You thought of what he was like as a teenager. It was understandable that he chose to play basketball. He was definitely a benefit for the team with such a height. At least he spoke well of Ms. Rey.
"Oh, I'm sure Ms. Rey kicked butts during basketball."
You took the empty vodka bottle and put it in the trash can. As you were about to ask Luke where to go with the box of the beer bottles that he just pushed into the corner, you noticed he had fallen asleep on the chair.
"You've gotta be kidding me," you breathed.
You tried to pat him on the shoulder to wake him up, but even whispering didn't help. He only nuzzled something through his lips
and continued to drift away in his dreams.
There were still some people talking at the standing tables, and they didn't pay any regard to you. Thank God. A drunk man falling asleep on his chair at work would not come over as a good image.
The sound of heels brought your attention to the stairs from which Qi'ra and Lando were coming down arm in arm. Covering Luke with a blanket was your first thought so that they would not see him in such an embarrassing condition. You ran into the storeroom, took a thin white blanket you sometimes used when you had to go with Luke to the cold basement, and covered him with it. The idea was stupid, and you knew that they would notice it right away, but maybe Luke would wake up during that time? Probably not.
"I see you're doing a great job," Qi'ra noted as she approached the counter with Lando.
You stepped in front of Luke behind the bar so they wouldn't notice him right away and spread the widest smile that nearly reached your eyes.
"Yes, of course, I mean ... who else could do the job?" you burst and scratched your arm.
While Qi'ra didn't seem to suspect anything, Lando gazed around the room.
"You know where Luke is?" he asked sincerely.
"Ah ... Luke — ehm, I'm not sure ... though ... I'm pretty sure he's upstairs smoking by the door," you lied, cracking up between the sentences.
"He's not there, we just came from outside," Lando mentioned.
Your heart started beating like a pumping machine, and your eyes distended. You pressed your lips together and tried to explain with your hand gestures that you had no idea where Luke was. Without the intention, you hit your injured hand on the counter and grunted in pain.
"You are by far the worst liar I've ever met," Qi'ra ridiculed.
She placed one hand at her waist, the other on the counter, looking straight through you. One of her brows rose up, and she shook her head. Her smirk on her dark red lipstick was hard not to notice, and yet you had no idea why you felt bad that she exposed you so openly.
"What's that—" Lando entered behind the bar and pulled off the blanket. A drunken Luke, who had now at least changed his head position, slept there like a bear in winter.
Suddenly you found yourself staring at the beautiful ceiling. You glanced back at Lando and acted all surprised as he stared at you with big eyes that showed the whites.
"Oh, there he is! You found him!" you marveled as you walked over to Luke and leaned yourself on the wall with folded arms.
If MS Mojo made a video of the top ten worst actors of the twenty-first century, you would definitely come in at number one.
"Well, dear Qi'ra, I suppose you won't get to meet Luke today," Lando said in a disappointed tone and tossed the blanket on the floor.
He placed both hands on his waist and let a deep sight out, shaking his head in bafflement.
"Oh wow! I'm surprised you have no idea who Luke is," you jested and curved your brows.
She moved her eyes upwards and started to walk around in a circle.
"What are we going to do now?" you asked Lando, wondering how to still work like this with Luke for an entire hour.
"Well, certainly, we can't let Luke leave like this around other people. Imma take him with me to my place, and I guess you just close the bar earlier," Lando suggested. "It's not like there are so many people still here."
Luke still had his eyes closed and was mumbling something.
"Yoo-hoo Qi'ra, help me to bring this sleepy bear to my car," Lando breathed as he attempted to settle his head under Luke's arm to pick him up.
Without help, Luke couldn't stand on his own two feet, so Qi'ra came from the other side and helped Lando. With Luke's arms encircled by their necks, they dragged him up the stairs without letting him fall.
"Buddy, you really need to stop drinking, or next time I'll drag you to rehab," Lando commented on the stairs through his muffled breathing.
Going home earlier meant that you could briefly read through your psychology course. Since you apparently had a test, you knew you could not afford to get another bad mark.
Even though you only worked with one hand for tonight, you found it easier to clean up the bar, and in the end, it even went faster.
You stood in the doorway of the storeroom with your back turned to the counter. You put on your hat and observed the organized boxes. You were proud of yourself for having put everything away neatly and tidily within ten minutes. You closed the door and were just about to lock it when you heard someone behind you lean on the counter and clear their throat.
"Give me a bottle of water," demanded a dark, familiar voice.
You spun around and saw no one else except your professor standing behind the counter with a five-euro bill in his hand. His tired eyes watched you the way a tiger watched a bunny. Hungry. Or as, in this context, thirsty.
"Sorry, I can't. I just put everything away," you said in a normal polite tone.
Professor Ren looked with confusion at his rich, metallic watch as his eyes shot back to you.
"According to my time, the bar should still remain open for 50 minutes," he stated.
He jutted his chin and pressed his lips together. The tone in his voice did not sound pleasant.
"Yeah, we had to close earlier," you answered.
"Is it so hard to give me just a bottle of water?"
You knew that sometimes you would come across people who would arrive on purpose at the last moment when you were about to close the bar. They would start to argue, with you, that you should give them a quick last drink, although you stated multiple times that you can't because you are closed. But you didn't expect your psychology professor to be one of those people who seemed to have a problem understanding this. When you say, it's all closed, that they won't get another drink.
"As I said, I closed the cash register, and I can't take the money," you stated this time in a still respectful tone that was just a bit louder.
"Oh, if that's the problem, why don't you give me a free drink as you did for Ms. Rey?"
You narrowed your eyes, squeezing your hand in a fist, and placed it on your lips. If you could, you would bite in it out of the anger and annoyance that this motherfucker gave you.
"I don't think it's necessary in your case. After all, you have so much money that you could buy the whole sports arena," you replied sharply.
"Listen to me, you stu-"
"Ready to go?" Ms. Rey interrupted Professor Ren's sentence full of fury as he clenched his five-euro bill in his fest.
As if out of nowhere, he let out a heavy breath, wet his lips, and straightened up.
"Sure! I would just prefer to moisten my mouth," he commented with a hint.
If he had said please, you probably would have given him the bottle, but since such a word did not exist in his vocabulary, it was not worth the effort.
5-3 for the injured teenager. That's what you get for being a Karen.
Tiredly you walked upstairs, Ms. Rey and Professor Ren following you. As you lifted your head, you recognized Qi'ra leaning all alone by the entrance door.
"There you are. I've been waiting for you," she said and swung her bangs to one side.
"Sorry, someone was holding me up."
You turned around to face Professor Ren, who walked straight behind you. Ms. Rey stopped with flashing eyes as she stepped forward, close to you and Qi'ra.
"I'm supposed you're the mother! It's nice to meet you," Ms. Rey smiled and stretched out her hand to Qi'ra.
The only thing Qi'ra did in reverse was giving her a questionable look with a scattered smile and ignoring the handshake.
"No, it's apparently ... the ... aunt," Professor Ren revealed, stepping up closer, pronouncing the words before Qi'ra could catch her breath.
Ms. Rey excused herself, took one move back, and gazed at Professor Ren. He studied Qi'ra with a predator’s unwavering attention and shoved his hands in his pants pockets.
"Ah yes ... the man from the hospital," Qi'ra recalled with a mysterious Mona Lisa smile.
Her eyes glinted to him upwards and then back to Ms. Rey.
"Are you here on a date?" she inquired. The tone in her voice said everything beyond that Qi'ra knew the answer.
Before Professor Ren could process what Ms. Rey said at the same time, they glanced at each other awkwardly.
"No?" Professor Ren repeated, lightly more shyly. This time his words seemed to be painted like his face already was.
Your brain was literally begging for your mouth to giggle. It's like your brain wanted to harm you because you knew if you did, and Professor Ren noticed, he would kill you. And even Qi'ra could not protect you from him the way she did at McDonald's.
Professor Ren and Ms. Rey stood there, close together, and their mouths opened and closed. You couldn't hear what they were saying. Or maybe you didn't want to. It was like a silence that was loudly drilling in your ears. However, it was not coming from Professor Ren's side but rather from Ms. Rey. She expressed a lot of emotions and hand gestures. Professor Ren, however, did not. He just stood there and listened to her.
You only noticed that Qi'ra was staring at you the whole time when she tapped your arm. Her facial expressions allowed her to react the exact way you thought.
"Alright, I think we should go home right now," Qi'ra declared in a whisper to you.
You looked up at her as she started to count from three. At zero, you both turned at the same time and left through the door. Once outside in the dark cold and like always rainy night, you walked quickly to the car. You were both breathing heavily, and you didn't even know why.
"You know how to light a fire," you commented and took your hat off. You rested your head back on the headrest and touched your cheek, which was moist from the rain yet glowing.
"It would be better if I knew how to extinguish the fire," she chuckled.
You looked out the window and noticed how Mrs. Rey and Professor Ren's argument started to play outside.
It was hard to see something in the darkness, so with puckered eyes, you tried to recognize Professor Ren and Ms. Rey standing outside of the arena. She yelled at him one last time, got into a taxi, and drove away. It looked like Professor Ren just got doomed on his 'date' from Ms. Rey, and at that moment, you didn't know if you should be happy and say out loud "Karma Bitch" or just ignore it.
Professor Ren was left standing in the rain. His clothes were all soaked, and his hair stuck to his face. He looked like a poor dog who had just been abandoned to survive in the cold all alone by himself. You knew he would survive, and so did he. Then why would you suddenly feel sorry for him when he clearly did not feel sorry for you on your injured hand and at your bad mark?
Don't you dare feel pity for your professor, Granny, you repeated all over again in your head.
Don't. You. Dare.