ASSESSMENT: The Bar

My next piece of assessment is a short story. There is no original on this blog.

Enjoy! xx, Kristin 

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Clang. A drink is placed on the bar. He nods. Grips the top of the glass. Drags it closer to where he sits hunched over the worn wood. Stroking the rim, he shifts in his seat. He leans further onto his elbows to stare into the amber colored ale. A long sigh. He lifts the glass. Holds it to his lips and lets the bitter liquid pour into his throat.

Every few weeks he sits on the same barstool, drinking until – he looks over his shoulder. All eyes glance away. Flushing or shrugging as he stares at them from under his uncontrollable mane. They always watch him. Studying the worn brown leather of his coat, his dark jeans. The heel of his boot. Woman’s eyes tend to get lost around the inverted climax of his v-neck tee. The men though. They just watch him. Tight lipped.

The same people. The same men.

They crowd around the pool table holding cue sticks like javelins. Dressed in the dull yellow light of lamps that droop from the ceiling. Enhancing smooth youthful cheeks. Shadowing the faces of those with ball-caps. They watch him. Tight eyes. Taking their turns to knock colored balls into pockets. Watching him. They cycle game after game.

Watching on. Watching him.

A pack of wolves eyeing a bear.

One man leans over the table. Tip aimed at the ball but his eyes aren’t on the game. On his target. Squinting, snarling, the cue is released. The ball pockets with a violent smack.

They are challenging him. They know how to pick a fight, but he only smiles at the men. A smile that doesn’t light his eyes. Only shows his teeth. He looks away.

The leather of his jacket groans as he lifts the glass.

He pauses.

Another draught. Only a matter of time.

Even this morning he knew he would end up here. As those calls kept coming in about things that were starting to fall from his control and those damn bright sticky notes piled higher, he just kept thinking about coming here tonight. And Alex, she just walked into his office. She didn’t knock. Not even a single tap of her finger on his doorframe. He would be surprised but – no. No. No, he was surprised. Not like her to be so bold. She looked up at him, pulling down on her sweater to hand him those damn bright sticky notes. Naive. Innocent. Can she not realize? He called her out on it though. Told her not to enter his office without knocking. Not to be so, so – naïve. Not to test his patience. He knew he would come here tonight. He knew he would retreat to this cave as he lectured her. It is what he always does. The work builds and the stress builds and he just cannot fathom sitting in that damn office on this damn planet for another moment of his life. When he can no longer find the patience to listen to their small problems, because it all might come crashing down around them and it would all be his fault. When she walks into his office, pulling on her sweater and his chest tightens. When that happens –

When that happens, he doesn’t know –

The squealing door of the bar slams shut as a woman in red enters. New. With little interest he glances over her thighs. Her hips. Lips to glass, he swallows deep.

Well, whatever it was that he said to her then – It doesn’t matter. That little assistant. She had yelled back at him and that – that was new. And, it only added to the tension splintering down his back and stomach. Which is not right. He does not deserve more of that tension. This tension. He has enough to deal with – a world of issues to deal with, a globe. All of it more important than a testy assistant with a pile of sticky notes.

One naïve, testy, innocent assistant who adds to the tension in his – gut.

Who makes him need to come here.

Here with a pint waiting on the bar. With the eyes of strangers flirting with his back.

He drinks. The ale is like water. He empties the glass.

Clang. Another glass. Another nod.

“Hello.”

(Click Continue Reading for the rest of the story). 

Only a matter of time. He looks at her. Fingers on the glass. He is not shy as he eyes her. That red dress. It stops just above her knees. Just showing her thighs.

Lifting the glass, he looks back at her face.

She leans against the bar. Elbow propped, she grazes her fingertips along her own bare arm and shoulder. With a smile she cocks her head. Waits.

He taps the counter. Looks to his ale.

“What can I get you?” The bartender wipes his hands on a towel. Glances between them. Thick brows raised. Smile growing. “One for the lady too?”

“Just for the lady.”

“Whiskey-Coke. Double.”

The drink is mixed. The corner of her mouth rises. Red lips twisting.

“Thanks.” With a bounce, she faces him. Arm under the cusp of her breast. “Not many guys here will buy a drink without wanting something for it.”

He finishes the ale.

“You don’t expect something do you?” She bites her bottom lip. Pulls it slow. Her teeth run over the smooth surface. Reddening. Glistening. “I don’t want to mislead you.”

“Oh.”

Eyes widen. She slips closer to his leg. Red polished nails dance just above his knee. She retreats. “You know, I’ve heard of you.” Putting a straw in the glass, she takes a sip. Back arching against the top of the bar she faces him. “The guys over there. You know them? They don’t like you.”

Understandable. He taps the bar. Another ale.

“That’s impressive. If I drank like you I’d get really drunk.”

She waits for a response, but he gives none.

“Really quick,” she pushes. Bats her eyes. Speaks, “So. What’s your name?”

“Jake.”

“Jake.” Her tongue spins over the two syllables of his name. Slow. “I’m Nina.”

He smiles. Takes a drink. Lets it hit the bar with a clang.

Nina watches his fingers as he plays with the rim of his glass. A swallow. A lick of her over-colored bottom lip. “What do you do, Jake?”

Jake sits back. Faces her. Shifts his body on the stool to put a flexing hand on his knee. The dark corner where he sits, always sits, hidesthe curling smile on his lips.

It is too easy.

Her eyes flicker from his chest to shadowed eyes.

He leans against the outdated oak wood-paneling on the walls.

“Nothing important.”

“Cryptic.”

He smiles.

Nina’s breath quickens. Drains her drink to ice.

“Another?”

She nods. Jake lifts a finger.

A second drink slides down the counter. Jake reaches for the glass. Brings himself closer. Keeps his face inches from her open lips. He places it in her waiting fingers. Nina looks between his hand and face.

She strokes his fingers and takes the glass.

Alex. With a small cough, Jake leans back over the bar. Elbows pushing against the lip that runs down the edge. She just walked in without the usual knock or the cautious lean into his office. The one where her eyes are full of fear. Her hands full of those notes. There were so many today that they rained onto his floor. He could not help but smile. Even in his – state. But she should have knocked. She always used to knock and after the last two weeks, well, his restraint is gone now. In fact, he was prepared to give the next person that walked into his office the brunt of his anger. All of his frustrations. Tell them what they could do with their minuscule press releases and promos. He was going to release all of his aggression on them. Their small worries. But, it had been Alex and she had – she had those damn notes. Probably about press releases and promos. He had seen the flush in her cheeks when their fingers touched as she handed them to him. She pulled down on her sweater, looking up at him for the first time without fear and he felt – what did I feel?

Well, whatever it was his reaction to her was less than callous. Less than.

Jake knots the fingers of both hands in his hair. He pulls at the roots.

“Jake,” Nina bids for his attention.

Eyes dark, he looks at her from behind his flexed arm.

A nervous hand strokes the strap of her dress. She glances at him. Pouting.

She thinks she has lost him.

No. Jake combs back his hair with shaking fingers. Drops his arms.

Leans against the wall with a smile. That oak paneling.

Eager and pulsing. She smiles back. Moving close. A finger running down the bar until those thighs wait between his knees. Her naked legs grazing his rough jeans. Slowly, she draws the straw between her teeth, resting it on her tongue. She sips. Drains the glass.

Again. Ice.

He lets her play. A stirring. Excitement for the – release. Poor girl.

Nina sets the empty glass onto the counter.

“I think you’ve lied.” She waits for a response. Gets none. “I think you expect things from me.” She grabs the loose bit of his t-shirt that hangs over his stomach. Knots it between her fingers. Quick. “I expect things.”

Only matter of time.

Pulling him to her, she slides her other hand over his stubble.

Down his neck. Over his chest.

Jake grabs her waist. Slides her down the bar into the corner.

The same dark corner. Same shadows. The same sketch.

Her fingers slip under his shirt. Find his chest. Run over the fine hair that trails down his stomach. To the buckle of his belt. Stroking his soft skin above the line of his jeans.

Jake pushes her against the wall. Both hands on her hips. His grip tightens. Wrapping a hand on the back of her neck, he lifts her to him.

Her lips part in submission.

Her teeth bite onto his bottom lip.

But, the kiss isn’t important. Nothing is fixed from the kiss. Nothing released. All the tension still sits like an anchor in his gut. Locked. Stuck. Weighed.

There’s not enough on this world, this globe, to free him.

He lets her kiss him. Lets her tongue brush against the back of his top lip. Lets her feel like she is all he needs. But he will be back in two weeks. A week. Those men on the other side of the bar – they will see him in a few weeks. After it builds again.

Jake runs a hand down her back. Over the soft fabric of her dress.

The zipper. She presses into him.

“Let’s get out of here.”

 

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