AN: This is an MA (mature adult) story. I repeat...an MA story. You've been warned.
Chapter 1 – Last Call
I let out a deep sigh as I finally see the time 1:30 AM on the oversized digital clock hung for the whole bar to see. It's a good 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. Tori hung it there because she was tired of having to kick people out at "last call." She refuses to hire another bouncer and Al definitely needs help. I smile to myself thinking how ridiculous the whole clock thing is because no matter the time, assholes still try to get drinks long past last call.
As a bartender I see men who may be good-looking on a normal day, but now just look like sloppy drunks: suit jackets thrown over barstools (always several forgotten by the end of the night), wrinkled shirts usually with the top two buttons undone, severely loosened ties, mussed hair, droopy eyes and slurring words. Real hot. The bar draws a plethora of businessmen during the week on account of its location near The Loop. They actually think that their chosen profession will make us serve them after last call.
The male customers tend to fawn all over Christina, not that I blame them. She's tall with legs that don't quit, dark-skinned and has silky black hair. Her make-up looks professionally done and her ability to flirt is staggering. In addition, a friggin' plastic surgeon would be jealous of her breasts, but they are real. Bitch. But she's my best friend and I couldn't possibly ask for a better one. She is always trying to build me up about my looks. It's borderline comical when she tells me "all guys need is a handful," referencing my small breasts. To be honest, I'm short: 5"3", skinny, pale, and have minimal curves. When I say minimal, I mean I have hips, only to the extent that they are a part of a woman's basic anatomy. My eyes are a boring grey. Seriously who has grey eyes? At least I have long eyelashes, so I suppose I have that going for me. Because all men want a girl with great eyelashes, right? And I guess my hair is ok, it's pretty thick so I know I won't be balding when I'm 80…assuming I make it to 80. Looking over my shoulder for my past to catch up to me is a common occurrence…fear is my MO.
"Last call," I hear from Tori as she stands on the bar seemingly being ignored.
Lynn, one of our cocktail waitress, stops serving and as she walks to the back of the bar, some drunk-ass grabs her around the waist roughly, pulling her to him and asks where she thinks she's going. I push a button under the bar and Al comes plowing over within seconds and tosses the guy out all the while he is screaming, "Do you know who I am? I'll sue your ass!" Well, there's another suit jacket we can donate to Good Will. I hope it's Gucci.
Lynn looks at me and says, "If only they knew I was a fucking lesbian."
"I don't think that would help your cause."
She laughs, which is a rare occurrence for Lynn. The hair on her right side is chin-length and the other side is spiked but she pulls it off well. She's short like me, but has curves and lean muscular arms from the pull-up bar she obsessively uses in her closet. Men seem to love her, probably because she looks like she could kick their ass and their semi-sadistic nature comes out in full force.
"Trissy…" says a sing-songy voice….Christina. "You know it's Thursday, right?"
"10 dollar pitchers at Callahans! Come on! You HAVE to come with me! I need my wing man…or woman…whatever," she says semi-convincingly.
"I'm out," I say. I really just want to go home, put on my t-shirt and sweats and pass out watching Friends re-runs. God I suck.
"What can I do to convince you?" she pushes. Not a damn thing. "I know! I won't ask you to go shopping or get a mani-pedi for 1 whole week?"
"Bye Chris…." I say, walking away.
"Fine then I'll ask Lynn. The worst wing woman ever!" She yells after me as Lynn passes her and mumbles a curt but blunt, "Fuck you."
I count my tips in the back room and give an extra 20% to the bar back for taking over my closing duties. And go outside to hop on the next bus….a large hand clamps on my shoulder and I reel around panicked. I look into kind, concerned eyes…..Al.
"Ya know Tris you really shouldn't be heading home alone at 2:00 am."
"Thanks Al, but I really can take care of myself….It's just the bus. The El…that's a different story," I said, trying to convince myself of that fact. To be honest, I don't really feel safe…anywhere. I just hate how weak it makes me feel. On a lesser note, I don't like inconveniencing people.
"See ya, Al."
"Yeah okay. Bye Tris."
Al always stares a little too long. He probably thinks I'm fragile.
I'm staring out the window into the expanse that is Lake Michigan. It's beyond late and all I can see on the lake are the dots from the lights on the boats and blackness. This is the only time that I feel at ease working on the 85th floor of a skyscraper. The floor to ceiling windows do nothing for my crippling fear of heights during the day.
My eyes start to wander around my office. I can only describe it as "swanky." I seriously cannot think of a manly adjective right now. I've never taken much notice of décor in my personal space, which is kind of humorous because I'm an architect so detail is kind of my thing. I see that the colors of the walls in my office complement the artwork that was already here when I started this job 1 month ago. I was told the art was from a gallery in Bucktown. I've heard it's a great area so maybe I'll visit it sometime. But with whom? I can't exactly take Zeke to an art gallery and enjoy flavored coffee at a boutique coffee shop. Or can I? Jesus I need to get out of here…..
As I walk down the hall I peer into the support staff offices and I see pictures and little personal touches that adorn the desks and walls: pictures, flowers and potpourri, to name a few. I should really do that, I briefly ponder….but I know I won't; bringing my personal shit into my office…not my style. Then I laugh to myself, as if I had personal shit. My apartment looks like my office.
As I exit the building I decide to forgo the company driver and take the Blue Line to clear my head. I cross Randolph and just as I make it to the other side I hear sirens go off as a cop car does a u-turn and pulls over right as I stop on the sidewalk. Not even bothering to turn around, I take a deep cleansing breath, bracing myself for whatever the hell the problem is.
"Hey dickhead! I've pulled people over for less than jaywalking!" Zeke.
He hops out of the car and I round on him smacking him upside the head. "You scared the shit out of me! What the hell is wrong with you?!" I yell.
"Whoa man! Keep your anger in check my friend because we need to make it to the bar before last call! Now hop into my sweet ride."
Not at all in the mood to argue I glare at him and get in the car. "May I inquire which bar we are in fact going to?" I ask. "It's 1:30. Last call is actually…..right now, genius."
"Do not ever underestimate the power of the uniform!" Zeke quips before he turns the sirens on to move traffic. "We are going to Hangars."
"I really don't want to be one of those douche bags who thinks he deserves a drink after last call," I comment.
"Well then let me be the douchebag! I'm the cop. Everyone thinks we are douchebags," Zeke says laughing.
"Well they aren't far off," I mumble
"Hey, what the hell has your panties in a twist? When was the last time you got laid? Wait, what was her name again…Nita?" he asserts.
"Which one of those 3 questions do you actually want an answer to?" I ask annoyed.
My date-turned-into-one-night-stand with one of my associates (big mistake) is something I would rather forget. Nita is what most men would consider incredibly sexy. She knows it and she uses it to her advantage. She has an olive complexion and long black hair. Her body has the curvature that most men get hard over just by seeing her walk down the hall. She is always done up with a little too much makeup for my taste and her eyes are…What the hell color are her eyes? Huh, never noticed. Nita set her sites on me from day 1. I have to admit I was flattered, seeing that all my colleagues fawned over her. It was masculating…I'm a guy. But I don't take kindly to women who look at me like I'm their prey. Yet I relented and agreed to dinner after several nights of her stopping by my office well after hours. Frankly it was making me uncomfortable. I could just see the sexual harassment papers being filed.
At dinner I found out that Nita was self-absorbed, selfish, rudely sarcastic and she even told me not to tip the server 20% because "that girl looks like she belongs in a shelter, not in a 4 star restaurant." At that point I was 3 single malts in and she yanked me, literally, to the bar at the restaurant because I needed to "loosen up." What I really needed was to erase her face so I tried to do that…with 5 Hendrick's and tonic.
Turns out the two of us did "loosen up"…twice. Ugh. She woke up with black makeup all under her eyes and smelling like whiskey and some horrendous perfume. I ran to the bathroom and vomited.
"Four! Hello! Earth to Four!" Zeke says.
"Oh yeah….what?" I said shaking my head trying to rid myself of that whole experience.
"So do we need to get you a girl or what?" He asks.
"Nope. Not interested at this time," I deadpan. "Now pull over, you're going to miss the bar." Zeke pulls right up onto the curb. Idiot.
"Yeah well, you never really are interested," he replies.
He's right. I haven't had a girlfriend in…..well, years. Several dates with the same girl here and there, but I scare them off pretty quick because I'm moody as fuck.
We arrive at the bar at 1:45 thanks to Zeke's sirens. Right when we go to walk in, a humpty dumpty looking bouncer tosses a guy out on his ass. The guy has the balls to scream the name of the firm he works for threatening to sue for harassment. He's probably a temp. I do feel bad for the guy when he starts to walk away without his coat mumbling something about Gucci.
Before Zeke and I enter the bar something catches my eye. I see a flash of blond hair and a petite hand giving a slight wave to someone in the doorway. As the bus pulls away I lock eyes with her…briefly.