I'm back with another one-shot! This one is kinda based on three things - Jazz music (specifically, Jazz from John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk), an episode of Cowboy Bebop, and my favorite author, who wrote a book with a similar protagonist.
Just as a warning, there is a lemon. It's not very long or very graphic, but I thought that giving a warning would be the best thing to do.
"She just up and left." I told the bartender, downing the last of my whiskey. He poured another before I could ask.
"Just like that. Not even a goodbye?"
"Nope." For a moment, we were quiet. "Hey, you wanna hear it from the top?"
"Do you wanna share?"
"I might as well; I've told you the ending already."
I took a sip of my drink, coughed, and began to tell the young bartender our story.
"It was about 3 months ago." I began. "Just before you were hired, when the old guy was behind this counter."
For about 6 months I'd been a regular at a jazz bar here in New York. I'd play a few songs a night, get some tips, have a few drinks (on the house, of course), and then I'd do it all again the next night. Once in a while I would play with a band: a pianist and bassist and a drummer, but I was usually alone. My playing was always greeted with applause, but I was working in a bar for a reason – I wasn't good enough to be famous, just good enough to get by. Being 28 didn't help my case.
Anyway, it was a cold day near the end of November and snow flurries were the norm late at night when I played. The bar wasn't too full that day, probably because it was right around Thanksgiving and most people were with their families, whether they liked it or not. Interspersed throughout the bar that night were the usual guests: run down men, tired working women without husbands, older people without families, but the entire placed seemed extra melancholy that night.
I was playing my last song for the set, an old, sad tune to fit the mood, when a woman walked in. Clearly she was rich – she exuded the air of the wealthy. Her clothes spoke for themselves as the white dress hugged that her body seemed like it was worth more money than I made in 2 months. And yet, she had the warmest smile on her face, a smile so lovely and reserved that I nearly stopped playing when I saw it. She sat on the corner bar stool, ordered a martini and turned her chair my way to watch me play. I could feel the pressure from her stare in the atmosphere and it nearly crushed me. But I powered through and came out feeling pretty good that I had such a beautiful woman watching me with a smile. At the end of the song, she applauded with a graceful clap.
The lady, who seemed to be just about my age, had glowing white skin and blonde hair that rested on her right shoulder. Her eyes, however, may have been the best thing about her. They were a deep indigo, a beautiful blue. Her eyes were so deep that looking in them gave me the strongest impression that I was drowning in a sea of darkness. But the darkness was pleasant, not foreboding. A darkness that was more like a deep sleep than the cold grip of death.
When I finished my set I put away my sax and handed it to the bartender, who stored it under the counter for me. I was pretty tired and so we only exchanged a few words. I ordered a whiskey on the rocks and while he was pouring I lit a cigarette. The woman was only 2 seats away.
After my second drink I was ready to go home. But before I could get up, the blonde woman stood up and walked towards the door. As she passed me she slipped a bill where I was going to place my glass and walked away with that smile still on her face. Her little tip happened to be a 50 dollar bill and I was taken aback by the generosity. To give something like that to someone like me, she had to be rich.
The faint sound of bells signaled the opening and closing of the door. I sighed, again just about to leave, when I noticed the woman's coat. She'd left it on her chair, and on such a cold night! So I ran out of the bar hoping to catch her in time. I looked left and right, I ran to each end of the block, but she was nowhere to be seen. I stopped running to catch my breath (one of the more annoying inconveniences of smoking) when I realized just how cold it was. Then I remembered that I wasn't wearing my own coat and I walked back to the bar to pick up my stuff.
The next night was the same as the previous one. I played a set, this time to more customers, and I got a few tips here and there. Again, the drinks were on the house and again, I was met with a nice amount of applause after each song. No matter how long you've been playing and no matter how famous you get, applause always feels good.
And then she walked in again. The blonde woman, now wearing a short, elegant blue dress, sat in her same seat, ordered the same drink, and watched me again. I finished the last song in my set and was about to put away my saxophone when I heard her chiming voice. "Wait!" she said. I turned to look at her. "Can you play that song again? The one you were playing when I walked in?"
I couldn't deny such a pretty girl a request, so I smiled, nodded, and began playing Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" again. Funny enough, just like the night before, it was just around midnight when I played it.
Once I finished the song, the woman clapped and gave me a warm smile. "Thank you."
"Not a problem." I answered while I put away my instrument. When that was done, I walked to the bar, handed it to the bartender again, and repeated my ritual from the night before. This time, however, I was just one seat away from the woman.
"Hey, you left your coat here you know." I told her.
"I figured just as much," she laughed. "I got in my limo and was already near my house by the time I realized that I didn't have it."
"I, uh, took it home last night so that it didn't get stolen. Here, I brought it back just in case I saw you again." I handed her the beige coat. It was a stylish one, with 6 dark brown buttons in a 3 X 3 pattern down the front.
Silence returned and we went back to drinking our drinks.
"I've been meaning to ask you something." I brought up as I stood up to leave.
"You left me a 50 as a tip last night. Did you mean to? I mean, that was a little much. I didn't spend it if you want it back."
"No, no, it's fine! I meant to leave you that."
There wasn't anything more to say so I turned around to leave and felt her small hands drop something into my coat pocket. I opened my mouth to ask her what it was when she put her finger to her lips in the "silence" sign. I sighed and left the bar.
Once outside I checked my pocket for what it was that she left. It was another fifty dollars.
The next night I walked in at about 8 and there she was, sitting in the same corner seat. When she saw me, she waved, and I waved back before setting up for the night.
I began the set with the song "After the Rain" by John Coltrane. It was a sad little song that nearly made me cry when I first heard it as a child. I looked over at the bar once or twice and the woman was lost in thought, eyes glazed over as though her soul left her body for another world. I thought I saw a few tears, though I couldn't be sure.
The blonde woman was oddly reserved that night. Usually she'd be tapping a foot to the beat or swaying a bit with the music, but on that rainy night she just stayed stiff, downing drink after drink. She only gave a clap or two instead of her customary applause after each song.
When I finished my set that night, I took a seat next to her and ordered the usual.
"Mind if I smoke?" I asked. She just shook her head.
So I lit up and waited for my drink to arrive. When it did, I crushed my cigarette in the ashtray.
I took a sip of the whiskey and felt just how warm it made me inside before I looked over at the woman and noticed that she didn't have a coat.
"One more, please." I asked the bartender. When he brought it over, I pushed the drink towards her.
"Drink up, you look cold."
To my surprise, she downed the thing in one gulp.
She didn't say anymore, so I didn't pry. We sat in silence and swallowed our drinks.
It was just about 1:30 in the morning, far later than when either of us usually stayed, but while I got up to leave, the woman didn't move. She still looked cold. I could only sigh and run my hand through my hair. Feeling like it was the right thing to do, I shrugged off my jacket and placed it over her shoulders. She looked up, surprised.
"Don't catch a cold, alright?" I asked. I left with her still looking in my direction.
That same routine lasted just about a month. I'd play music and the woman would be at her corner bar seat. Once I was done, I'd take a seat next to her and we'd drink, usually in silence. In all that time I'd yet to learn her name. She didn't tell me, so I didn't feel like I should ask.
Sometime, maybe a week after she was consistently coming to the bar, we began having small conversations. They usually weren't about much, just small things like the weather or music or books. But I enjoyed them. In all honesty I was lonely. All, and I mean every single one, of my friends had moved on. They didn't have time to come down to the bar at midnight. They had children and spouses and jobs that took up too much time. But I couldn't really blame them – they were continuing on with life. I was staying in the past. And in all honesty, the woman seemed just as lonely as I was.
When I mentioned "staying in the past", it was really the best way to describe what I was doing. My childhood friends – Axel, Kairi, Sora, and Demyx – and I used to have a jazz band and we'd play together all the time. We were a band for all of 3 years before everyone moved on to bigger, better, more "grown up" things. The band did gain some local fame, but it wasn't really enough to keep us together. Sora and Kairi got married and opened a bakery. Axel joined the corporate world. Demyx…well, I never really learned what happened to him. Last time anyone mentioned him, they said he was off in Arizona and working on a farm. I don't know how much truth there was to that. But while they did their thing, I stayed with the jazz route. It was hard at first, and I couldn't find much work, but then the bar scene opened up to me and that was what I'd been doing from that point forward. I didn't even have a girlfriend, let alone a wife.
Being with the blonde was comforting, mainly because we were both lonely, in our own ways.
It was mid-December, around the 16th, when I finally asked her to dinner. I'm not really sure what pushed me to do it, but at the time it felt like the right thing to do. She didn't decline.
"Hey." I said as I took my seat next to her.
"Great show tonight, not that it ever isn't."
It was quiet for a few minutes.
"I'm just throwing this out there but…" I started.
"Would you like to go to dinner with me tomorrow?" I felt my cheeks growing red – it had been a long time since I'd been on a date.
"I'd love to." She said after a few moments. There was a sad smile on her face in place of the usual warm one, but it was still lovely.
So the next night I met her at the bar at around 6 and from there we walked to a little restaurant on the coast, over-looking the Hudson River and beyond to the Atlantic. The restaurant was an Italian place I'd discovered a few years back and it had great food. I ordered sauce and pasta. She had the same.
Over pasta and glasses of wine we talked about the usual. It was all going well until she brought up her husband.
"My husband is a nice guy," she said out of nowhere, after a quiet moment between us. "He's a stock broker downtown, but he isn't a ruthless monster. He loves me and provides for me and our daughter and…and…and he's a really good person. Especially to put up with someone like me." She sounded guilty and her voice trailed off at the end. I couldn't look her in the eyes.
"Oh. I'm glad – you deserve a nice guy."
That was the end of the entire conversation at the restaurant.
By the time we were done eating, I had to get back to the bar for that night's set. She insisted on watching me.
When I finished playing, I asked her where her home was so that I could walk her there.
"I don't want to go home…"
I sighed and began walking us to my apartment. We both knew where the night was headed. We both knew the circumstances and the possible consequences. But neither of us stopped anything from happening. I doubt we could have even if we tried.
Once inside my cozy apartment, we got right to it. Our kisses didn't stop, as if some sort of primal passion prevented any interruptions. Still in an embrace, I led us to my room, where we fell onto my bed and continued making out. The few times we separated, our breathing was nothing more than us gasping for air before another go. We pulled each other's clothes off as quickly as possible; first my shirt, then her dress. Next to go were my pants and finally my boxers. Her panties and bra were off just as fast.
Eventually the making out slowed down to a more intimate level. We traveled up my bed a bit until her head was on my pillows. In the darkness, I had to rely on my sense of touch more than my sight. I could just barely make out her breasts, nipples, and the neat, hairy patch above her sacred area with the help of the dim light of the moon. Every surface was creamy and smooth, from her head to her toes. I reached over to my dresser and took some protection from the top drawer while still kissing her.
On that cold night, we kept each other from freezing. She was just so warm, inside and out. And when I held her close, I smelled the wonderful strawberry scent of her hair. Everything about her was amazing. It was like a dream. Tension was being released between us, tension that had built up for a month. But it wasn't just tension that drove us to sex. I felt something for the woman, and a light in her eyes told me she felt the same.
When we finished she laid next to me in bed, her head in the crook of my neck and her hand resting on her chest. I rubbed her smooth, naked back up and down in the most comforting way I knew how until she fell asleep. Her warm, smooth body was still pressed against mine and the sound of her slowed breathing put me to sleep just as quickly.
Sometime in the middle of the night I felt the pressure of her body against mine lessen until there was nothing. In a semi-sleeping state I looked towards my door to find the woman fully clothed and ready to walk out. She looked back at me and gave me an apologetic smile that was full of affection. The woman walked back to me slowly and kissed my forehead. Then she leaned down and whispered one word into my ear.
It was her name.
I couldn't help but to fall back asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, all traces of Namine were gone. There weren't any clothes accidentally forgotten, there weren't any dishes in the sink to show that she may have had something to eat before she left, and there wasn't even a note. The only proof to show that she'd ever been there was the condom wrapper still on my dresser and the lingering smell of strawberries on my pillow and neck.
Outside it was rainy and overcast, not a good sign. All day, Monk's "'Round Midnight" played in my head. Ella Fitzgerald was singing the haunting lyrics.
She wasn't at the bar that night, which was weird, considering that she hadn't missed a night. I just chalked it up to her feeling guilty and wanting to spend some time with her family. Honestly, I felt guilty too. I could've said no. I could've taken her home. But I didn't. Still, as guilty as I felt, I didn't regret a thing. That last night between us had been special. I figured that she'd be back the next day.
Namine never did come back to the bar.
A month after her "disappearance" I thought I saw her in that Italian restaurant I took her to. Through the window, I noticed a beautiful woman who looked just like her, laughing and enjoying a meal with a pretty, blue-haired little girl and a silver-haired, teal-eyed man. He was smiling at both of them like they were the greatest things in the world. Namine turned and looked out the window and I could swear that she saw me. A tiny smile graced her face and then, just as quickly she looked to me, she looked away and resumed the happy dinner with her family. I never did confirm whether that was really her or not, but in my heart I knew it was.
And just as quickly as I adapted my routine to include her, I changed it back to the way it used to be. I played my set, got some tips, downed a whiskey or two, had a cigarette, and then it all repeated again and again.
In her memory, every one of my sets ended with Monk's "'Round Midnight".
"Wow…all of that that really happened?" the young bartender asked me as I finished my story – and my 4th whiskey.
"Mhm. But I think it was all for the best."
"Why? I mean, she cheated, you lost her, and then you never saw her again. How is that good?"
"That's just life. It was good because I met her and she met me. I think we changed each other for the better."
"I see." He said, though it wasn't very convincing.
I just gave a little laugh. He'd learn that life was all about experiences one day – I was sure of it. But I thought it'd be best for the kid to live out his youth first, so I didn't say anything more.
I took my sax out of the case, sat on stage, and started playing John Coltrane's "Every Time We Say Goodbye."
I knew I would never see Namine again. I knew it deep down inside. But I'd always treasure that month we spent together, and the night that gave it a beautiful ending.
From Coltrane's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" I transitioned into "'Round Midnight" and played into the night.
Did you like it? I thought it was a bit different than what I usually write so I'd like some feedback.
You guys should also check out the songs I named here, especially "'Round Midnight", both the normal instrumental version, and the version with Ella Fitzgerald. And watch Cowboy Bebop too - it's a great anime and it's considered one of the best ever.