She stuffed the bracelet into her duffel as soon as dinner was over. Nikki was barely paying attention to the conversation at the table so she was thrown off when Jenna told her they were ready to go.
“Ready to go where?” She asked.
“With Rodney…?” Jenna waited for Nikki to remember then continued when all she did was give Jenna a blank look. “Into the city? Oh come on, Nikki. You said that you would go with us yesterday. Don’t break your promise now.”
“No, I, uh, I’m not trying to do that.” Though she might have if she thought she could have come up with a good enough reason. Everyone was going and she could have used that time to figure more out about that bracelet. On the other hand, she couldn’t really look forward to staying in a cabin in the middle of the woods by herself at night. “I’ll be right back. Tell them I’m coming. Just let me grab my purse.”
Nikki went to her room after seeing that everyone was out in the bus and went quickly to her duffel under the bed. She may not have had a choice but to leave the cuff behind while she went detecting but she wasn’t going to leave it in this empty old shack all night. She dug it out from its hiding place under layers of her necessities in one of the side pockets.
She stayed up last night waiting for Sylvia and Jenna to go to sleep so that she sneak into the bathroom with it. She wanted to get some more of the dirt off of it to be able to see the markings better. Nikki didn’t want to do too much to it. She was afraid of the damage that might be underneath since it was right next to the pond. But the more that she cleaned the more surprised she was that she couldn’t find any sign of damage at all. It wasn’t shiny by any means, but it showed no sign of the corrosion that she had expected.
She stuffed the bracelet into the bottom of her satchel bag and raced back out to the bus.
It was a quicker ride into town than Nikki thought it would be. Rodney pulled the bus to the curb in front of what looked like it could be this town’s main square. There were several shops clustered together and several restaurants as well but it didn’t look like they were too busy. They must be about to close for the night.
“This is where I’ll leave you and this is where I’ll pick you right back up.” Rodney said. “There are a number of restaurants and bars that will stay open long after I come back to pick you all up. Just keep to this strip here and you’ll find them soon enough.”
They all piled out of the bus and onto the walkway. Sylvia gave them a wave and Rodney barely waited for the last person to get out before he drove off. The group set off as one but then quickly separated as they found different shops to go into. Nikki, Jenna, and Ian stayed together, browsing different specialty shops, until they found themselves at one of the late night bars that Rodney was talking about.
“The Crooked Bull?” Ian said, reading the sign on the front, and looking really skeptical.
“Cool!” Jenna took off toward the front door.
Ian, not knowing the Jenna that Nikki knew, looked confused and yet amused somehow but Nikki just smiled, shrugged, and took off after her.
Nikki was already halfway to the bar by the time they got inside. Nikki was surprised to find that the place was fairly packed. Ian went to find a table and Nikki went to tell Jenna where they were.
“Behold.” Ian said as the two of them came to the table with drinks. “The infamous crooked bull.”
Over to one side of the bar, not too far from the tables, was a sad looking mechanical bull. It must have still been working though because there were a couple people in a line next to it and one in the ring being helped up by one of the workers.
Nikki saw the glassy eyed look of surprise on Jenna’s face and immediately took the drink out of her hand just seconds before she ran off. Nikki shook her head and Ian just laughed. They ordered some food and talked for awhile waiting for her to take her turn and come back, but again, Nikki knew better. She timed Jenna knowing that she would ask how she did and watched her get right back in line after she got out.
“She ever ride one of those before?” Ian asked.
“Don’t think so. I think someone in her family owns horses though. She’s not bad, is she?”
“Not at all.” He downed the last of his drink. “You need another drink?”
“Sure.” She raised a hand to stop him from getting up and stood up herself, grabbing his cup. “I’ve got this one.”
“You had the last one. No fair.”
“Life’s not fair.”
He scrunched up his face at her like a five year old when he’s mad and Nikki was still laughing when she got to the bar. It was awhile before she could catch the bartender, they seemed to get busier the later that it got. When she finally got their drinks, she had to fight through a small crowd. Just when she thought that she had cleared everyone, a guy turned to quick for her to do anything and bumped her arm. It shouldn’t have made her do any more than spill a little of her drink but instead a jolt went through her arm that made her hand reflexively lose its grip on the glass. As the glass shattered on the floor they both said ‘ow!’
“What was that?!” Nikki gasped.
“But how…?” The man said, looking curious.
“I didn’t do it! Whatever it was. What are you carrying? A tazer?”
This seemed to snap him out of whatever thought that he was having and he sprang into action. “Please accept my apologies.” A worker came by to clean up the pieces of glass. “Sir, please get her two more of these.”
He put his hand on the waiter’s shoulder to get his attention. Nikki involuntarily flinched even though it wasn’t her that he touched and the man did nothing. The man must have noticed this because he took back his hand quickly.
“Something wrong?” Ian was next to her now, a hand at her waist. Nikki was vaguely aware of how much better she felt with him there.
“No…” Nikki just wanted to get out of here. Something about what just happened made her come to a realization and she didn’t want to be here when she finally processed it. “He just bumped me. It was an accident.”
She and the man shared a look and while he seemed like he wanted to say something, wanted to question her, she tried her hardest not to let anything show.
The waiter that cleaned the mess up came back then with her drinks.
“I’ll see that the drinks are paid for.” The man said, breaking eye contact.
“You don’t have to…”
“It’s the least I can do for knocking yours on the floor.”
He nodded and left them, turning back toward the bar. Nikki watched him but went willingly when Ian gently guided her away.
“Are you sure you’re ok?” Ian’s voice shook her out of her thoughts.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. What time is it?”
“We should get going then. Rodney will be back with the bus soon.”