Bar-hopping in Niagara Falls

I gave the bar one last look before I closed the door, and turned resolutely to set out upon the streets of Niagara Falls once again to find my husband. The only problem was where to look. It had been two months, an eternity for me, and I had no idea where to start looking.

Let's see. If I had caught my spouse giving the bell hop head on our wedding night, where would I be two months later?

Primary response: prison. I probably would have killed Eric and the bell hop, too. But Eric really isn't that kind of guy. I mean, obviously.

Eric's the kind of guy who would wallow in his pain. At a bar, which is why I have been to three already. I guess the third time really isn't the charm. But then, I'm not the luckiest gal around. If I was, Eric would have arrived with ice and champagne after the bell hop left.

I glanced up and down the street, unsure of which direction to take. For such a family attraction of a town, Niagara Falls sure had a lot of bars.

"And I thought I needed a drink," a female voice came from my left.

I gaped at the speaker. She was obviously a local- she was stuffing a yellow vest that I recognized from the workers at the local gift shop into her oversized purse. I frowned a little. I didn't like what she was implying, but a little alcohol never hurt anyone. "I guess I could use a little something," I said, forcing myself to smile. "Know a good bar?"

The girl grinned. "My friends work over at The Barrel. I'm sure they could hook us up with a free kamikaze or two."

I liked how this girl thought, and decided that I could forgive her initial rudeness. "Sounds good," I nodded and we started walking the remaining block to the neon sign declaring that The Barrel was open for business.

"So…" The girl's face contorted with what had to be some sort of deep thought. "You visiting here?"

I blinked a few times. That question was the product of that look? "Duh," I answered helpfully.

"Oh… right." She nodded. "Cause if you lived in Niagara, you'd know where the bars are. We kind of have to make our own excitement around here. You know, if excitement is your thing. And if it is, you might want to look elsewhere for it."

I laughed at that.

She pushed open the door to The Barrel, and I immediately began panning my glances over the crowd within. My companion made her way to the back of the restaurant to the rustic bar. The place had something of a lumberjack feel to it- the bar stools and counter were made of varnished wood.

"Hey, Mahandra. Two kamikazes. On the house, if you would?"

"Sure Jaye." The girl behind the bar began grabbing an assortment of bottles to mix and shake together the alcoholic creation. "So, gonna introduce me to your friend?"

"Would if I knew her." She shrugged.

"My name's Sarah," I supplied with a smile. It's not Sarah, it's Heidi, but you can never trust these tourist trap folk.

"Enjoying your stay in Niagara, Sarah?" The bartender had the decency to ask me.

I smiled. "I suppose that all depends on whether I find something I'm looking for," I replied, taking a welcome sip of my drink.

"Everybody's looking for something…" Mahandra said, and nodded to herself. "Jaye, if you're looking for your boy toy, he's around back. He said he would be right back."

"He's not my boy toy, Mahandra…" Jaye turned a bit pink around the edges. I was beginning to think that whoever they were talking about was indeed Jaye's boy toy whether she actually admitted it or not.

"Does he work here?" I asked.

"Yep. He's the real bartender. He actually lives in the back room."

I raised my eyebrows. "Isn't that a little pathetic?"

Mahandra snorted. "If it's pathetic, than you're looking at his perfect match. Jaye here lives in the High & Dry trailer park."

I attempted to hide my amusement behind my hand. This sure was some kind of pit… I really hoped Eric was far, far from here.

"Heidi?" My head jerked up at the sound of a familiar masculine whisper.

"Eric?"

"Heidi?" Mahandra, the girl making Jaye and my drinks turned around and stared at me incredulously.

"Heidi?" Jaye spat a huge swallow of alcohol back into her glass. "I've been sitting here, having a friendly drink with Heidi-ho!"

Well, that was offensive. I didn't even know this girl, what right did she have to call me names? "Eric, what's going on? I just came to-"

"Go back to Jersey, bitch!" Jaye jumped off of her bar stool and crossed her arms menacingly at me.

"Uh, I don't think so, missy. Eric, I-"

"I have to go check on something." And just like that my husband disappeared behind the corner. What was going on? I grabbed my purse and slid off my own seat, prepared to follow Eric right off the Falls tonight if that was what it took to get him back. I set my face with determination.

Jaye's hand on my arm stopped me. "I don't think so, Heidi. I think you've hurt him enough! Eric doesn't want you here." She tossed her head haughtily.

My mind must have been overwhelmed by all these details being thrown at me, because suddenly I put two and two together. Jaye's "boy toy around back" was Eric- my Eric!

That little slut had the audacity to tell me what my husband did and didn't want. Well, I'd show her. Eric wanted me! He married me, not her trailer park skank-ass.

"Excuse me? I'm his wife. I think I'm right where I belong. I'm just here to get Eric so we can go home!"

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously (she must have known I was right, I mean, God! Look around, Jaye!) "Only his wife in the technical sense!" she spat, and shoved me roughly into the bar. My drink toppled into my purse, spilling alcohol everywhere, including on my clothes.

"Okay, that's it, you little tramp!" I grabbed the first thing my fingers found without breaking eye contact with my husband's – girlfriend? Whore? – whatever she was. It was my now mostly empty kamikaze glass and I wound back in preparation to throw it. "Eric is mine, and you are going to walk out that door," I pointed viciously with my empty hand towards the wooden door of The Barrel, "right now and forget about him!"

Jaye reached out and stopped my arm in mid hurl. "Uh, takes one to know one! 'Room service', my ass!"

Okay, so maybe I deserved that one.

"And besides- you can't kick me out! This is my town!"

As much as I hated to admit it, she did have a point.

"Eric!" Mahandra screeched. "Get out here, now!"

I continued to struggle against Jaye- she was surprisingly strong for her plucky appearance- but immediately stopped when Eric reappeared. His eyes looked to Jaye and then swung, almost reluctantly it seemed, to me.

"Eric, I-" Suddenly, I felt very tired. All the fight left my body. I just wanted everything to go back to how it was. Back to before I ruined everything.

"What are you doing here, Heidi? I thought you were in New Jersey?" He sounded tired too, and without warning I regretted disturbing the little world he had built up here. Jaye might be trailer-park trash, but she did get me a free drink, and she was willing to fight for Eric. And that was something that I was not sure if I would be welcome to do anymore.

The light in his eyes when he looked at her… I shook my head. "I thought if I came back, and explained…?" I shrugged, filled now with the urge to crawl back to the hotel room and sleep, even if it was alone. Why did I ever think that I could make things the way that they were? Of course things would change after two months.

I lowered my head into my hands.

"Heidi?" His voice was soft at my side, and his hand was a source of comfort on my shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Eric. So sorry. Will you forgive me?

"Whether or not I forgive you won't make things any better, Heidi,"

"So there's nothing I can do that would make you come back to New Jersey with me?"

He looked at Jaye, and I had my answer. I picked up my purse and headed for the door.

"That'll be $3.50!" Jaye shouted at my back.

The door slammed behind me on the way out.