The music faded and the lights gradually came up. Teddy looked around a once-crowded dance floor, with swelling dread. Never a wallflower, he’d rarely been here so late. He’d only heard about the sad state of affairs in these last desperate moments.
For the few remaining souls, a loud voice boomed out the transactional warning everyone was waiting for. “LAST CALL. LAST CALL. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME, BUT YOU CAN’T STAY HERE. WE’LL SEE YOU ALL NEXT SEASON.”
Some guy and girl he didn’t recognize were chit-chatting at a nearby table. There were some real homebodies congregated ten steps away, and a dozen or so stragglers hunched over by the bar. He recognized Maria, who he’d once brought back to the cave, and swore off as a never-again mistake. She was selfish and snored, two big red flags.
As a few more couples paired off and wandered out into the night, the pressure built. A chill blew through the air, only exacerbating Teddy’s rapidly approaching social doom. Tomorrow was the beginning of hibernation season and going it alone was a long, cold, lonely nightmare to be avoided at all costs.
He wasn’t exactly a player, but Teddy had earned himself a reputation as a bit of a honey potter, and he hated that label. He was a classic romantic, with picky taste… was it really a crime to be so selective in matters of the heart?
Melissa used to hibernate with his buddy Troy and always seemed like a good denning mate. Troy had bad-mouthed her after their relationship, but Teddy remembered a general congeniality and having fun with her when the whole gang went fishing.
Teddy entered overthinker mode; hypothetical situations and moral quandaries raced through his head. What if Troy sees Melissa leaving my cave after winter? Would this be a violation of bear-bro-code? Is a long hibernation with someone I only sort of know a good idea? Do I need to love myself more, so that others can love me?
Moreover, why was Melissa still single? Teddy wondered before realizing that they were in the same, lonely predicament. Melissa had all the qualities of a good cuffing season mate. Had she put on weight? She looked heavier, and better, than he remembered her. Plus another bonus was that they wouldn’t have to go through all the awkward getting-to-know-you small talk.
Melissa scratched herself against a tree, showing off her voluptuous pear figure, and pretended she didn’t know exactly what it was doing for Teddy. He threw open his jaw and tossed back the dregs of his remaining mead, a little liquid courage, for his big approach.