One of the first things you’re taught when you go to become a bartender, is what the phrase “On the rocks” means. It’s one of the basics, something anyone could learn, but it is essential when you want to be a “good” bartender. It’s like the foundation of a house, because without it, there’s nothing to build on.
The four of us were best friends and were completely inseparable all through middle and high school. Cynthia, the strong-willed, beautiful, blonde worked at bar in up-town New York City called “Silver Spirits”. Tiffany, or “Tiff”, was the do-it-all, hardcore ginger and she found a job at a club called “The Seven Foxes”. Megann was the shy, brainy one, but we all loved her anyway. She worked at the Black Brick Bar. Then there was myself, Corriana, though I preferred to be called Corri I worked at an incredible music bar, called “Notes”, with an incredible manager named Luka. We had weathered college together, and now we all still shared similar, yet vastly different lives.
* * *
The air was warm, fresh, and gave a feeling of new beginnings; the air of springtime in New York City. I was due to meet my friends at Café Lalo for coffee like we did every Friday or Wednesday morning, and today I was running a bit late. My first shift started Saturday night and I still had so much to do to prepare, though I was sure my new boss wouldn’t mind. I had met him a few days earlier, when I had gone to check out the bar itself, and he seemed like a pretty relaxed guy. Even the most laid back could pushed to yelling though, when drunken idiots were all that surrounded you for hours.
I was rushing so much that I almost missed a phone call from the closest of my four best friends, Megann, who was surely calling from Lalo by now. She was always the first one there.
“Hey Meg!” I gasped into my little dark-grape colored phone. “Oh, I know, I know. I’m running a bit late. Just one of those mornings, sweetie! I’ll be there soon though.”
I hung up before she could say another word, and to be honest I felt bad about it. I was far too excited about the day to come and I couldn’t wait to get to see my girls and hear all about what their places were like.
* * *
At the café Meg was already sitting at our usual table with Tiffany and picking nervously at a lemon-drizzled croissant. They hadn’t seen me come in.
“Hey you two! Sorry I’m late.” I called from a few feet away. I wasn’t really that late, but like I said, they’re my best friends. I hate to let them down. “Where’s Cynthia?”
They turned and Tiffany’s red curls bounced slightly as she spoke.
“She’s on the subway, she had a… late night. She should be here in about ten minutes.” The three of us laughed. As much as we loved Cynthia, there were times when we just didn’t know what to do about her.
I got a cup of “Spring Tea”, which was really just your standard green tea with a sprig of mint, but in the spirit of springtime, the freshness that the added mint gave it made it a little extra special; a little more right for the season.
“Hey girls!” A very familiar voice called to us from a few blocks away.
“Hey Cynthia!” We called back in unison. Sometimes we were a bit crazy in the little things we did, but it made us the unique group that we were. It kept things fresh.
Cynthia joined us with a cup of black coffee and two muffins, as one of them was for me since I had forgotten to get anything to eat. We sat quietly for a few moments stirring our drinks and nibbling at our light breakfasts. Then the silence was broken by none other than our loveable Tiffany.
“Well somebody say something!” She nearly shouted.
Cynthia and I laughed, but Meg looked a bit startled.
“Tiffany… not okay.” She said. It was clear that she was trying hard not to burst into laughter.
“So, has everyone gotten a chance to check out their places?” Cynthia chimed in.
“Yeah! It’s a music bar, well, lounge really I guess. Round tables, round leather stools for seats, really cool feeling all around. And my boss, whose name’s Luka, seems really cool. I didn’t get to talk to him much but for the little time that I did get to talk to him he was really laid-back and just, easy-going, ya know?” I rattled everything about my place off so quick I wasn’t sure if they had actually heard me, or if it had just sounded like buzzing.
“Well, you sure sound excited, Corri.” Tiffany said, confirming that I had, in fact, actually spoken at a comprehensible speed. “My place is pretty cool too, but Meg, you wanna go first? You were gonna tell me about it right before Corri got here.”
“Oh, sure.” Meg said a little quietly.
She had always been a bit shy, even after we had all been friends for years. “It’s nothing too special. Just your basic bar. It’s well-lit though. Good food there too. All hardwood floors, paneled ceilings. And I don’t know about you, but I checked out the website too, it’s really well done and organized.”
“Sounds nice.” I said, placing my hand on her shoulder. “Tiff, your turn.”
“Alright!” Tiffany said with a smile. “Well, it’s a club, so I’m not sure I’ll be super into the clientele, but with clubs comes music, and with music comes dancing, and with dancing comes cute guys. But you know, since I’ll be working I won’t have too much time for that.”
She looked over at Cynthia as if to invite her to come by one night and see for herself. It was a running joke we had, so Cynthia knew no harm was meant by it.
“But the atmosphere is hip and fun, and there are some really very comfortable couches. So it’s not like you’re forced to stand all night.”
Cynthia perked up since it was her turn now.
“Well,” She started, placing her hands on the table like she was about to give some big reveal.
She had done this only a few times in the past; once when she started dating her first boyfriend in seventh grade, and again when the actually very attractive class president asked her to our senior ball.
“It’s a very high-end, classy, sophisticated, new-modern bar in the same neighborhood as my apartment. And you’ve all seen that. But, Silver Spirits, the name of my place, has one very unique feature that won me over when I was deciding between this place and another.”
“And that is?” Tiffany, Meg, and I asked together in anticipation.
“Solid. Glass. Balcony… for a dance floor.” She said as she slapped her hand on the table and removed it to reveal a picture on her phone, and smiled in wait for our reaction.
We all sucked in air as fast as we could and covered our mouths as we let out silent screams of awe. This was quite possibly one of the coolest things we had seen. It was a new bar, and from what Cynthia had said, it sounded like a pretty exclusive place. How she had gotten a job there, especially as a new graduate, we had no idea, but we were happy for her nonetheless. Once we had all calmed down we gave Cynthia congrats and begged her to get us all in one night when she was working. She said she didn’t think she could just add anyone to the list, but that the bouncer who worked the same nights as her was pretty cute so she would see what she could do for us.
She finished her coffee within a few sips after that and told us she had to run back to her apartment to make sure she would have enough time to get her uniform washed and get her apartment cleaned up for her friend that was coming over that night.
“Well, she certainly seems happy, huh girls?” Tiffany said once Cynthia was well out of earshot.
“Yeah.” I agreed. “So… We gonna throw her a party this year? It is her nineteenth.”
“We are, but I’m not sure where to hold it this year…” Tiffany trailed her sentence off in the way she did we she already had an idea but she either wanted you to guess it, or just simply wanted to piss someone off.
“What’re you planning, Tiff?” Meg asked, matter-of-factly.
“Oh, maybe just a little home-crashing bash?” Tiffany said revealing a shiny key that resembled Cynthia’s.
“You didn’t!” I gasped.
“Oh, but I did. Don’t worry, this is just a copy, but it’ll help on the day of.” Tiffany said with a smirk. “Until then, you never saw it.”
“Understood.” Meg and I said together with smiles like Tiffany’s on our faces.
My apartment was still a mess from that morning’s rush to meet the girls on time; and had I been having anyone other than a friend over it would have made me crazy to have my room look like this, but Meg had known me long enough though that it didn’t bother her in the slightest. It bothered me though, and I groaned when we opened the door to my small bedroom to find piles of clothes and shoes and all manners of miscellaneous things cluttering the floor and my bed itself. Meg laughed, more from my groan than the mess though I think, and started picking up and folding a few things to try to motivate me to clean it up, even though she knew I really didn’t want to.
“There’ll come a day when you’ll be thanking me for starting to clean up all your messes for you, Corriana.” Meg teased.
Since I had known her longest, I let Megann call me by my full name. It was how I had introduced myself to her as a little girl, and it was how she knew me. It was a sort of special bond between us in that way, since I had started preferring “Corri” in middle school when we met Cynthia and Tiffany.
“You’re absolutely right Meg.” I said as I picked up a plastic basket to put folded clothes into. “But that day is far, far off.”
She laughed and balled up the shirt she was holding and threw it at me. This was why I loved her. We could criticize each other to death and never think anything of it. We loved each other and we always would, no matter what. We would always be there for one another. Me, her, Tiffany, and Cynthia. The four of us would always have each other’s backs no matter what the world, life, or nature threw at us. We were the Inseparable Four. Like the Fantastic Four, only, without the super powers, and all girls.
About twenty minutes into the pile of laundry, Meg and I uncovered the bright orange sheets of my bed and along with it a small, hand-made photo album with a cover photo of the four of us from seventh grade, when our group became complete.
The photo featured the four of us at the fountain in the center of the mall in our old town where we used to spend our entire weekends together. Cynthia, even back then, was incredibly gorgeous. The expression on her face looked like she was about to say; “You guys, are ridiculous,” but she was smiling. She was wearing a loose-fitting, white shirt, dark denim shorts, and hoop earrings that hung too low, but still looked pretty. She was standing next to Tiffany, who had her outstretched arm perpetually punching the air above her head. Her hair was particularly frizzy that day, but something about it fit perfectly in that frozen moment. I stood to her right and in comparison looked much calmer; slightly slouched posture, natural-looking smile, one hand in my back, left pocket and three silver bangles holding on to me by my thumb. Meg was standing apart from us in this photo. Why I couldn’t remember. She looked distracted though.
“Yeah? What’s up, Corri?” She had returned to folding clothing shortly after I had sat in the one clear spot on my bed to look at the little photo album, and had been strangely quiet since.
“Do you remember this day?” I asked her. “In the photo you seem…”
I stopped when I saw her expression change from a bright smile to what I can only explain as a kind of dreary tiredness. I couldn’t remember, but something had definitely happened that day that I couldn’t remember and it was for sure bringing up some bad memories.
“Meg… I hate it but… I can’t seem to remember what happened that day before this photo was taken,” I said, “but you look so… distracted.”
She put down the shirt she was holding and sat real close next to me.
With a sigh she said, “I never told you, because you were my best friend, and still are. But… that day… I… I felt so like and outsider with the three of you. I mean you all have so much. Cynthia’s always beautiful. Tiff has so much energy. And you… you’re just so… you.”
I wanted to say something to comfort her but for the life of me I couldn’t think of a single thing in the moment that sounded good in my head that wouldn’t sound worse out loud. So, I just stayed quiet and let her continue.
“And if you recall at the time all of you had boyfriends. We were at the mall for Cynthia’s sixteenth birthday. I never told you how I felt because I love you all so much and I didn’t want to dampen the mood. Cynthia would have… Cynthia would have been Cynthia.”
I didn’t know what that meant exactly but I hated how Meg sounded in this moment. I never knew any of this, or, if I did, I ever said anything to her about it. I never asked her how she felt being around all of us. So, I guess in a way I did know but, maybe being friends with Cynthia and Tiffany made me forget about Meg a bit.
“Megann, did I…?” I wasn’t sure how to end that question so I just let the end fall.
“No! No! You didn’t do anything wrong Corri!” She quickly interjected, “It… It was really just me. I was kind of going through a tough time in middle school. Remember? With my parents?”
Oh yeah, Meg’s parents were going through a rough divorce at the same time we were going through our middle school years.
“I didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere. It was me,” She explained further. The tears were drying now and she was starting to cheer up. “I guess I just missed you a bit. You were having fun… I tried to speak up and talk to you about what I was going through a few times but when I did Cynthia and Tiff would always pull you off to see some shoes or ask your opinion on some outfit or something.”
Now the memory of the day was clearer. Throughout the whole day, whenever Tiffany and Cynthia would run off to check out some place on their own, or go scout ahead, Meg would take a deep breath and tell me things weren’t getting any better with her parents. I would ask why every time, but whenever Meg went to answer, Cynthia and Tiffany would get back and pull the two of us up ahead to the next store or kiosk or whatever else and I would promise Meg that we would talk about it later but every chance we got the same thing would happen. Again and again.
“Meg, you know I –“ I stopped when she looked at me and smiled her Meg smile.
“I do know, Corri,” She said, “I would for you too. It’s what best friends do.”
She meant every word too.
* * *
“Who’s freakin’ calling you at this hour?” Tiffany groaned as she pulled her blanket further over her head and I rolled over to check my phone.
Tiffany had come over the night before a little while after Meg had left and we had pulled one heck of an all-nighter, and we were paying for it now.
The caller ID on my phone said “Luka”, and it took me a few rings before remembering what day it was, and that this Luka person was my new boss whose phone number I had gotten so he could call me the day of to tell me when I should come in to be trained for my first shift at the lounge.
“Oh, crap,” I muttered sleepily to myself. “Hello?”
I hoped he couldn’t hear the tiredness and irritation in my voice.
“Afternoon!” An almost female sounding voice greeted me from the other end. “It’s Luka, from ‘Notes’. You gave me your number so I could let you know when we wanted you to start.”
“Uh huh. I remember,” I confirmed. The truth was, my back was killing me from having spent the night on the couch, and my memory was a bit foggy at the moment. And quite frankly, I didn’t really know why he was saying “Afternoon”.
“Well it turns out one of our girls just quit early this morning, so we’re short a girl, and we’d be more than happy to have you.” The girlish voice informed me.
I would have had more of a reaction to this news, but since I was half asleep all I could muster up was a halfway-enthused “Oh! Thank you, so much!”. The person named Luka informed me that I should be at Notes by three-thirty for training and that my first shift, if I felt ready, would start at five-thirty and go until ten forty-five. Then he said good-bye and I happily hung up my phone, noticing that the current time was one twenty-three, and lay back on my couch again.
“Wait,” I said to myself with my eyes still shut. “One twenty-three… Tiffany! Get up!”
I kicked her from across the couch and she sat up within seconds.
“What’s wrong with you, Corri?” She was upset from being woken from a clearly happily deep sleep.
“I have to get to ‘Notes’ by three-thirty,” I said quickly, running to my room and gathering up some clean clothes, “That was my, well, to-be boss calling me to tell me that I’m gonna have a shift tonight, five thirty to ten forty-five. But I need to get there at three-thirty so they can train me. You know, house specials and whatnot!”
I was in the shower before I heard any sort of response from Tiffany. When it did all sink in though, that I was going to actually be starting at my new job today, the first thing I heard, that was unexpected only in the amount of time it lasted for, was Tiffany’s excited and in a certain way congratulatory scream. Next thing I knew she was in my bathroom jumping up and down and saying how amazing it was that I was starting so close from the day I checked out the place and had an interview. She was saying how it almost never happened. Then when I got out she hugged me, wet towel around me and all, and begged me to let her come with me for the training.
“Moral support you know?” She said with obvious enthusiasm in her voice.
“Of course you can come, Tiff,” I said, “but you gotta let me get dressed first sweetheart.”
She did a double fist pump and pretty much skipped back into the living room. I was excited too and I had to be there in an hour, but it wasn’t like I was going to run out the door without everything I needed. Mainly, good clothes. So, the next twenty-five minutes or so were a bit of a blur. Tiffany and I running about my apartment, her giving me opinions on outfits, what kind of impression I wanted to make. What I wanted to look like to customers. In the end we decided on a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans, dark navy heels, and a loose, but form fitting black and red tank top, with a lightweight, warm brown jacket on top.
“Fab-U-Lous,” she said with affirmity.
“Let’s get over there then!” I said with what sounded like a bit too much excitement in my voice.
It was surely something worth being this excited about though.
* * *
The moment we stepped in the lounge we were immersed in beats as universal as little girls’ belief in magic, guitar riffs as old and as necessary as time, and they came together in sounds that flowed through me as easy and unnoticed as blood.
“This is it,” I thought, “This is right where I belong.”
I took a moment to breathe in the air of my new home away from home. Breathe the music, and energy of my new life. Maybe it was just me, maybe it was just my love of music and the energy and atmosphere of Notes. Maybe it was purely the fact that I was here with Tiffany, and her energy and enthusiasm was rubbing off on me. But in some crazy way the air here felt different. The sound? The energy? Something about how it all came together in this one place, and how I was now officially apart of it, I felt, right. I felt free of some invisible chains that had been holding me back for so long. But right here, right now, it was all about me.
“Tiffany,” I said, “we need to find my new boss, right now.”
We took each other’s hands and went in search for my boss. Of course, it wasn’t too hard, I had been here before after all, and I was getting a bartending job. I walked to the bar with Tiffany on my arm and asked the guy there where the office was, and if somebody by the name of Luka was here and if I could talk to him. His answer was actually a bit surprising.
“You must be Corri. Well, I like your enthusiasm, and you’re already talking to Luka,” the light-haired guy said, “Thanks for being on time.”
“Oh, well, hey,” I said, and I really hoped he couldn’t hear the nervousness in my voice, “It’s a real pleasure to be working here. I love the music.”
I extended my hand to him. He happily accepted it.
“Well, get over here. We’ll start your training right now,” He said as he handed me a short white apron that was decorated with a music staff and had “Notes” written across the staff in, well, music notes.
I did as he said and very happily accepted the apron. He went through basic procedures, told me about the side work I may have to do from time to time, but usually it was only needed if one of the waitresses was out one night or we were particularly busy. The more he talked the more I fell in love with this new place. And the more I couldn’t wait for my first shift to begin. At the end of the basic overview as Luka called it, he gave me a quick skills test on my drink mixing and serving skills. Since Tiffany had stuck around, we used her as a test, even though she couldn’t drink. Finally it got to be five twenty-nine, and Tiffany lad left a half hour earlier, I was starting my first shift and to my surprise my first customer was a really cute guy, all by himself.
“Hello and welcome to Notes, how can I serve you this evening?” This was the first of about thirty times I would being saying this tonight, but this first one felt more than incredible saying.
“First shift?” the guy asked.
“Oh, is it that noticeable?” I was suddenly very self-conscious.
“It’s just the enthusiasm,” the guy said, “I remember my first one too.”
“Oh! You’re in the business too?” I suddenly had much more of an interest in talking to this guy than serving him.
“Yeah,” he said, “four years now. Still in love with it. This is my night off so I figured I’d come down to a different place. I could get a discount at my own, but, why do that when you’ve got great music and a pretty girl to talk to?”
“Haha…” I felt my cheeks get warm at his comment, “Well, so… a beer good?”
“Sounds perfect,” the cute guy said with a smile, “ID?”
“What?” I had been thrown off by his “pretty girl” comment and forgot I had to ask for his ID proving he was twenty-one.
“To prove I’m old enough to drink,” he laughed, “Here.”
He opened up his slightly worn, leather wallet in front of me and held it open to his driver’s license for at least a minute before I actually comprehended what it was for.
“Oh, yeah, thanks,” I said, now suddenly nervous about how I looked and what my voice sounded like, “I’ll be right back with your beer.”
“Nothin’ too special,” he said, “I like my drinks like my girls, simple but make an impression.”
First night on the job and already a total stranger, and a cute one at that, was hitting on me. I really wanted my girlfriends here all of a sudden, I needed their support right now. I felt my whole body warm up. I felt like I was going to overheat, so I ran in the cooler where extra drinks and ingredients were kept and put a hand on my chest, over my heart.
It was beating so fast and so hard I thought it was going to tear out of my chest right then and there.
But it didn’t. And when I went back to bring the adorable stranger his drink, I found my boss chatting him up. They looked like they were friends. I wanted to run away right then, but I knew if I did I probably wouldn’t have a job to come back to, and I loved it here too much already to lose this. I took in a breath, filling every cell in my body with the energy of the music and forced my feet to pick up and approach the opposite end of the bar with the tray with the beer and a small basket of mixed nuts on it. In reality, it probably only took about fifteen seconds, but to me, with my steel feet and iron lungs, it felt like it took fifteen hours to get there.
“Here you are. Ice cold,” I said cheerily.
“Thanks,” the cute guy said with a flip of his hair to move his bangs out of his eyes, “Well, I’ll let you get back to work –“
I didn’t realize he was talking to Luka, so I said, “Oh, it’s not problem, it’s what I’m here for.”
I got an odd stare from both Luka and the cute guy.
“I’m sorry, I was actually talking to Luka here. But, I think you have other customers so... you should get to work too,” He said.
I looked behind me and he was right, we did indeed have more customers. And I wanted to leave knowing I had made a good impression with Luka, so I had to get to work.
“Right, “ I said, “If you need me…” I walked away.
Luka nodded and I went on my way. The night was long and, though I didn’t have to deal with any more guys like the first cute one, whose name I now desperately wanted to know, and whose initial comment “…when you’ve got great music and a pretty girl to talk to?” had stuck with me the whole night and was certainly extra distracting since he stuck around until my shift was almost over. Other than that though, Luka was well tempered about my behavior with the cute stranger, and by the end of the night I had recovered to the point where everything was easy again and I felt right at home in this place where music was air, and sound was energy.
Eventually, the music died down and people left, even the super cute stranger who had heated me up so much it felt so foreign and strange and I felt like I was in someone else’s skin. Thought that was almost comforting. Why though, I didn’t really know.
“Hey Corri,” a comforting voice said form above me, “you can head home. I’ll finish that for you. And your friend’s here for you.”
The voice was Luka. And the friend he was referring to was actually Tiffany, who had come to walk home with me, which was really nice of her. I needed a friend right now.
“Oh, okay, thanks.”
I trudged out from behind the counter and smiled weakly at Tiffany. She gave me a concerned look but I just shook my head and thankfully she didn’t ask anything further. I would have told her, excluding everything about the cute stranger of course, but she didn’t, even when we had gotten back to my apartment and I buried my face in the pillows on my couch, still wearing my apron from work. Tiffany simply sat beside me and placed a hand on my back. Even though she didn’t really know what was wrong, her instincts served her well, and I started to feel better.
That night when I finally managed to fall asleep, it was actually morning. One thirteen in the morning to be exact.
That was one hell of a night, I thought, but every second was just what I wanted. Just what I needed.
And with that, my eyes shut, my breathing slowed and evened, and I drifted into dreamland.
I had been working every evening into night since Saturday and Tuesday was my first real night off. I considered inviting a couple of the girls over to hang out for the night, maybe sleep over, but Meg was with family until Thursday, and Tiffany and Cynthia both had work. I could go to either of their bars and visit them, maybe meet someone, make a new friend, see where that went. But I was never much of one for hooking up. I liked having boyfriends. Sometimes it was just hard to meet someone I liked enough to want to pursue them. The girls always joked that I made it too hard for the guys I liked to like me back. While sometimes this was true there were times when I just didn’t want a guy in my life interfering with my time with them, and I told them this whenever they brought it up. They always laughed and said that it was one of the many reasons why they loved me so much.
During most of my day of I spent time in bed with a large cup of coffee and perused the web. Checking out what celebrities were adopting kids, or who had a new scandal being leaked. In all honestly, I didn’t care for most of it, but I didn’t have much else to do since my friends were all busy. So my day consisted of pretty boring day-to-day things until around four thirty when Cynthia called asking me to come up to her bar.
“Sure, Cynthia,” I said, happy to have an excuse to get out of my house, “Any particular reason why you want me there?”
More often than not with Cynthia, she called one of us out to where she was to help her get a guy. Tiffany, Meg, and I all had some pretty great stories from times she called us to her “desperate need.”
“No, but Tiffany mentioned you had today off so I figure you may as well spend it in a nice place with hot guys and a good friend behind the bar.”
She had a good point.
“What should I wear?”
“Well, you still have that black and white dress I gave you for your fifteenth birthday, right?”
“Yes, and it does still fit.”
“Fabulous! Then just wear that and I’ll see you soon.”
She hung up quick and before going to my closest I got a look at myself in the mirror. Hair in a messy, loose bun. Worn hoodie, and stretchy waist pants without a lot of stretch left in them. Slightly tanned face in need of a good scrub. Well, I could easily turn this around, it was a matter of whether or not I wanted to do the work and make the trip up town to Cynthia’s glass-floor bar. In the end though I allowed myself to clean up and dress up. Who knew? Maybe it would turn out to be worth the work.
* * *
I have to admit, even though Cynthia told us everything she knew about it, even with the pretty good description the place itself was still a surprise. Nearly every surface was somehow reflective, and even though I had never been inside a space shuttle, I was pretty sure this was somewhat what one would feel and or look like, granted it would be significantly smaller. After I got over my initial awe of the room itself, I took notice of the people sitting at the bar and at the dark wood tables surrounded by pristine black leather. They all looked pretty wealthy, if not at least very well off, and at least one of three was definitely trying to get laid.
Yup, I thought to myself, this is definitely Cynthia.
I swear if I didn’t know better I would say that she had heard me thinking because not even two second after that thought did she call me from behind the bar, a few yards away.
“Corri!” She called, “You made it!”
I stood on my tip-toes, even though I was wearing heels and this was a needless movement, and waved to her. I was actually really glad I had come out now, it felt good to be in this nice of a place even though I didn’t exactly have much business being there aside from Cynthia being a bartender and having her as a friend. When I sat down I asked her why she had called me up, because as much as I loved her I knew it was for more than just to give me something to do on a Tuesday evening.
“Oh, Corri,” she sighed, “you know me too well.”
With that she gestured over her shoulder to one of the other bartenders working, a guy with short, dark hair, lean but muscular, and seemed to be making friends with everyone he was talking to. I couldn’t tell at first, he seemed familiar but I couldn’t know for sure until I saw his face, and when he turned I did know for sure. It was same cute stranger who was at my bar the night of my first shift.
I felt my skin grow warm again at the sight of him, here, working with on of my best friends. I also felt myself grow jealous, because Cynthia was beautiful and the cute stranger would certainly fall for her over myself. Though if Cynthia liked him, I wanted to be as supportive as possible, so instead of telling her about the other night, I simply bid her good luck, and told her to work fast because he was quite a cute one.
“I know! Isn’t he?” She smiled, “I mean, he is my boss though.”
“When has that stopped you before?” I teased. It was meant to be a little hurtful, but she laughed it off and just said, “Yeah, that’s true”.
I watched her do her runway walk over to him and begin her flirting pattern. I had known her for years, and I had seen her get guy after guy, and it was all thanks to one little pattern she repeated and executed perfectly with every single one, and she could always do it regardless of where she was or what kind of work she was doing, if any. The first thing she did was indirectly interrupt the guy she was interested in, in this case she pretended to be getting a glass from the shelf underneath where the brown-haired guy was mixing a drink for a customer. Then she would make some silly joke about being in the same place and the same time, and how they were in-sync. To which the guy would always laugh, and this time was no exception.
For the next twenty minutes or so I watched her flirt with the total stranger I had no explicable reason to like, but yet somehow found myself infatuated with him. At least he was her boss and she knew his name. He seemed to be having a good time with Cynthia, just as I thought, and when she finally excused herself to come over to me and tell me how it went, every tidbit of the conversation, I was more than prepared to hear her say that he had happily accepted her date offer, which was the final step her in her flirting pattern. But oddly, she didn’t look happy when she came over to me.
“What happened?” I asked, trying to conceal hopefulness that he had said no.
“Well, I did what I always do,” she said, “but, maybe it just wasn’t enough this time. He said he has a girlfriend he’s committed to, though they don’t see each other much.”
“Oh… well, what’re you gonna do?”
“Give my friend a wonderful night,” she teased.
And from then on the rest of the night was pretty wonderful. Cynthia didn’t try to hook up with anyone else, though she did get flirted with copiously by the drunk businessmen. I didn’t try to make conversation with anyone, except Cynthia of course, who eventually told me her boss’s name, which was Nathan. That stuck with me for the rest of the night. Every time he looked my direction, I still warmed up, but now that I knew his name it wasn’t as much of a burning like it had been when he was just the brown-haired stranger, as much as it was a gentle, all-around warmth like when you get a good hug. I smiled every time he looked my way, and I’m pretty sure I caught him smiling back a few times.
All of these little things that I now knew about this seemingly perfect guy, made for a restful, and easy night of sleep.
* * *
It was still dark when I woke up, and according to my desktop alarm clock it was five thirty. I couldn’t help but think of Nathan, even though I really didn’t know him, I really liked him, and I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about him. I had dreamt of him the night before, and it wasn’t a really hot dream; it was just he and I talking. Like we were friends. It was just pleasant. The thing that bothered me the most about him though was how every time he looked at me, I could feel my body temperature rise and I still couldn’t understand why. I liked it but at the same time it made me so uncomfortable. It was something no other guy had ever been able to do, and I felt like he was almost looking through me in a way, to a deeper part of me I didn’t even know I had.
I think I did end up drifting to a semi-sleep state at some point but I don’t think I ever really fell asleep again after I had been up thinking. It was a crazy thing, but I came to the conclusion that I did want to pursue this new guy who seemed to have just been plopped in my life like mashed potatoes on a plastic tray. But as good or bad as he could or couldn’t be, I wanted to know more about him. But I also wanted to stop driving myself crazy thinking about him, so hopefully breakfast with the girls could get my mind off it.
* * *
“Morning sweetie,” I said as I joined Meg at our usual table. Somehow she was always the first one here every morning we planned breakfast.
“Good morning, Corriana.”
She seemed awfully perky, and while I was happy I wasn’t usually used to seeing her this happy at breakfast. More often than not she’d be complaining about something Tiffany or Cynthia did the night before that they told her about and I’d have to remind her that they’re our best friends and we do what we have to do to stay together even if sometimes we may not always lie doing it.
“You seem happy,” I said, “something happen last night that you wanna tell me about?”
Meg got a small, naughty-looking smile on her face and rolled her eyes like she was contemplating whether to tell me or not.
“Oh… did you meet someone?” I asked, suddenly very curious to find out what my friend had done that she couldn’t simply come out and tell me about.
“Someone amazing,” she said quietly. I leaned in to listen to her. “He came in to Black Brick last night around eight. He had very light, kind of toasted-marshmallow colored hair, light caramel colored eyes, and he was a little bit nerdy and quiet, but that’s why I felt like I could talk to him so easily.”
“So? Did you? Talk to him?”
“Of. Course,” she said very proudly, “turns out he and I have a lot of similar interests, and I’m having dinner with him this Saturday. His name’s Luka.”
I didn’t want to tell her she was going to be going out with my boss because I knew that would immediately turn her off from him, and I didn’t want to do that to her. She was happy, and I loved that she found someone she really liked. It was a bit funny thought because since I met him I had kind of always thought that he and Meg would make a good couple. And now she was going to be having dinner with her.
“Well, that’s great for you, Meg. I’m happy for you.”
It was the truth. And now Cynthia and Tiffany were here so we all started talking about how our first shifts had gone. What kind of people we had met. What we thought of our bosses and such. Of course, when I talked about my boss I tried not to make him sounds too much like the guy Meg had described to me because I still didn’t really want her to know that she was dating my boss, though sooner or later I would tell her. From what Tiffany told us she and her boss got along really well and it seemed like she was actually in to him as more than a boss, which could be bad, but if any of us could pull it off it was Tiff. So, we bid her good luck.
When Cynthia left we went straight to talking about our plans for her party. It was only two days away now after all.
“So, we have the key, tacky but lovable decorations, cake, and…” Tiffany listed off all the things with delight. She was definitely proud of herself for this one.
“Tiff, I have a date on Saturday, but, you think I could bring the guy to her party? I really like him and I want him to meet you guys and…” Meg let her sentence trail off there.
“It seems a little early if it’s your first date with this guy but, sure! The more the merrier!”
Meg got a big smile on her face and I smiled at Tiffany in place of saying “Thanks”. Everything was set, and I was more than excited, part of me even kind of hoped that maybe Luka would bring Nathan along, since it would technically be his first date with Meg, and the four of us could get crazy together so I don’t know how comfortable he’d be on his own.
Stay hopeful, I reminded myself, but be prepared to be disappointed.