Chapter – 1
She walked into the place like she owned it. Hostile glances, some covert, some not, even a few that bordered on something akin to hunger, were sent in her direction as she made her way over to a barstool and sat down. The air was filled with tension and suspicion; she was an unknown in a place where too many secrets dwelled.
She had been in many bars in her life, too many if you asked certain people, some good, some bad, but this one was different. She wasn't quite sure how or why, it just was. It didn't send her senses reeling into overdrive, nor was the minor cramping of her stomach warning her, because that too felt different than normal. Not wrong, not right, just different. For a brief second her brow furrowed with confusion, she had come in here for nothing more than an ice cold beer and now it looked like she had a mystery to solve.
She mentally shook off the eyes boring holes into her back, she was used to eyes on her, and sometimes it was a good thing, sometimes bad. She put on her best smile as the bartender, who curiously enough was a dwarf, made his way over to her.
"Lost?" he asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. The fact that he greeted her in such an overt friendly, teasing manner sent a clear message to his customers to behave themselves, he had for all intent and purposes claimed her. Unless he indicated otherwise, she was off the menu.
Instantly she liked him, and straightaway felt like he was someone she could trust and count on if her back were against the wall. That in itself was extremely weird and very rare for her. There were very few people she had ever trusted in her life, and trust had never, ever come easy for her, let alone immediately, she'd been burned one too many times. "Only if what you've got coming out of those taps is root beer." She replied.
For his part the bartender instantly felt the same way about the young woman sitting at his bar, it both puzzled and intrigued him. "Actually, we do…"
"Yes, for real…" he chuckled, "the other taps however are not root beer."
"Please by the PTB's tell me what's in those other taps are alcoholic in nature." She gave him her infamous half-smile, and a pleading look.
"I believe the Powers have just answered your prayer. They are indeed alcoholic in nature. We have lite, and we have dark. So tell me, are you of the light or of the dark… kind of girl?"
His tone was teasing and his question innocent enough, but somehow she knew he was asking so much more. She stared into his eyes and for some reason she wondered the same thing about him, but the longer she looked the more sure she was that his answer would be light.
"These days, I seem to be a light kind of girl." She smiled at him, but there seemed to be a little bit of uncertainty in her voice, as if she wasn't quite sure herself.
Then he saw it, in her eyes, the light that shone from within, and the darkness that warred with it. And in that moment he knew, she was no ordinary girl, but then again he was no ordinary man.
"Lite it is…" he said, as he moved towards the taps, but not before he heard her murmur under her breath, "For today and hopefully every day."
"Here you go; one ice cold lite beer."
"In a frosted mug, think I'm gonna like this place." She smiled at him, "What'd I owe ya?"
"Do you want me to start a tab?"
"For real? Dude you don't even know me, I could skip out the back door and you'd be paying for my drinks with your tips. So what'd I owe you?"
"Trick," he said holding out his right hand.
"Oh…" she smirked and shook her head, "For real?"
"Yes, for real," he replied, his hand still outstretched towards her.
"Faith," she took his hand in hers and he wasn't at all surprised by her strong grip. "All we need is B and we'll be good to go."
"We need a bee for… what exactly?"
"Never mind, long story…" she replied, and he watched a shadow cross her face.
In that brief moment he caught a glimpse of the ghosts that haunted her. There was mystery surrounding this young woman, and he wasn't quite sure, he couldn't be one hundred percent positive but he thought she was like them or something pretty damn close to them.
She spun around on her barstool and took in the place and all its customers in with a glance. There was only a handful or so spread out around the bar. Then again she didn't expect it to be packed on a Tuesday afternoon. She spied the pool table off to the side, and a smile spread across her face.
She dug into her pocket and pulled out some bills. "Change for the table please, Mr. Trick."
"Table is free, Ms. Faith," he slid the bills back at her.
"For real…" he chuckled, and something told him, that for this young woman nothing had ever been truly free.
"Oh yeah, definitely gonna like this place, in fact it might be my favorite place in the whole wide world right now."
Trick smiled indulgently at Faith, he liked this girl.
"Wanna shoot a game with me?" Faith really didn't expect Trick to say yes and for the life of her she couldn't figure out why the hell she asked in the first place.
"Sure," Trick smirked, then chuckled at the surprised look on Faith's face.
"You sure your boss won't mind, don't wanna get you fired or nothing."
"Pretty sure the boss won't care."
"Gotta warn ya, I'm a pretty good player," Faith slid off her barstool, and started sauntering in the direction of the table. She turned back towards Trick and asked him once again, giving him one last out. "You sure the boss won't mind?"
"Considering I own the Dal, I'm pretty sure the boss won't mind," and he couldn't believe that came out of his mouth, half his customers didn't know he owned the bar, and now he had just gone and told a complete stranger.
"Yes, for real…" he chuckled, "Now rack 'em. Oh and I should warn you… I'm a pretty good player too."
They played for two solid hours, only stopping long enough for Trick to serve his customers. Damn, he was good; she had only won three of their games. She liked the fact that he hadn't let her win just because she was a woman. She also liked that at some point, Trick had started tutoring her, showing her what she was doing wrong and complementing her on what she was doing right. By the end of the two hours Faith had learned more about shooting pool then she had in all her years of playing, and she was a good player to begin with, even Trick had said so. She might have been good, but he was better… not just simply good… he was a damn master.
Over the course of the two hours, Trick had learned a few things about the young woman that so intrigued him. She was from Boston, but he had already known by the slight accent she still carried that she was from somewhere in New England. She had no family left in Boston or at least from what she implied no one she cared to call family.
She was single, thirty years old and had been on her own since she was fourteen. From the hurt and shame he had seen flash across her face when she casually tossed that tidbit out he let the subject drop. He was old enough, been around enough, had seen enough in his long life to know that look, and he closed his eyes briefly in disgust at the horrors people of all races were capable of inflicting upon each other.
She worked as a freelancer, a job she told him that took her all over the country, and sometimes even out of the country. She had been doing it for the last few years. What she didn't tell him was what kind of freelance work she did do, and he had a funny feeling had he asked, that her answer would have been the first lie she told him.
When he asked her where she called home, she stared at him with a wistful look on her face, shrugged and told him, she couldn't really say she had ever had a place she called home.
He was actually sorry when the bar started to fill up and he had to call an end to their time together. He was slightly amazed when he realized that he hadn't even bothered to check to see in the last two hours if any of his less than 'normal' looking customers had shown up.
He checked now and gave an internal sigh of relief when he saw none had. For some strange reason though he knew she wouldn't have been surprised if any of his less than 'normal' customers had come in.
Regardless of what he thought he knew there was nothing written in stone, and until he found out more about her, there was no reason not to be cautious. Not being reckless was one of the reason he had led such a long and healthy life.
Throughout the afternoon there was this persistent feeling that something about Faith was familiar to him but for the life of him he couldn't put his finger on it. In time he knew it would come to him, it always did.
Faith for her part couldn't remember the last time she had spent such an enjoyable afternoon with anyone, let alone a complete stranger. There was just something about Trick that put her at ease, made her let her guard down and the mask that she'd been wearing for as long as she could remember.
She realized as she followed him back over to the bar that while she had told him a few things about herself, he had told her very little about himself.
She knew he owned the Dal and that he was a master at pool. He had a granddaughter named Bo, who he was extremely proud of and whom he thought she would get along famously with, as well as with Bo's best friend Kenzi. From the tone of his voice when he spoke of Kenzi, she knew he regarded Kenzi with the same affection as Bo.
His wife Isabeau, whom his granddaughter was named after even if the spelling was slightly different, had died some years ago. She could clearly see written on his face how much he had loved, still loved his wife and how terribly he missed her. And she knew that it surprised the hell out of him that he had even told her those few things. There was something both familiar and comforting about Trick, and for the life of her Faith couldn't figure out why.
"Hey Trick," she said softly to him before he could jump back behind the bar.
He turned towards her with a smile, "Yes?"
"Just wanted to say thanks, I had a good time this afternoon," and she had. But like anything else all good times had to come to an end, and for Faith, the good times had been far and few between.
"I did too Faith and thank you." He smiled at her again as he jumped back behind the bar.
She dug out some bills from her pocket, more than enough to pay for the few beers she had, put her empty beer mug on top of them, and half whispered to Trick, "Maybe I'll see you around some time." She turned to leave, not expecting an answer.
"I hope so, come back any time, the door will always be open for you Faith." He shook his head, surprised once again by what had come out of his mouth without his permission. He knew though deep down inside it was the right thing to say and that he meant every word.
"You might regret saying that," she tossed back over her shoulder at him as she opened the front door to leave.
"I don't think so," he said too softly for her to hear and he knew that was right too.
For the next three days straight Faith came into the Dal at the same time. Over the course of those days, neither Faith nor Trick found out anything more about the other. Their instant connection to each other grew stronger, despite or maybe in spite of the lack of exchange of personal information. It seemed that connection, that bond, was indifferent to the normal notion of how one bonded to another. To both Trick and Faith it felt natural, it felt right, it felt like it would happen whether they wanted it to or not and so it did. They couldn't have stopped it if they tried and if the truth be told neither of them had the desire to even try.