A GIRL, A BAR, AN EMPTY HEART - TIM BEVERSTOCK
I was killing time at the bar when I met her. My drifting mind working on the best way to occupy the rest of the evening. I flipped the lighter back and forth, end over end. The last girl I slept with thought this would make a nice gift. I had smoked the last of her cigarettes on the trip down in between Greyhound stops. Playing the last look on her face on repeat as I slipped from her life. The trusting ones bothered me the most. I was her first, but it won’t be her last betrayal.
Outside the window the dying light bathed the stacked buildings. A world serrated in a sea of gasoline. I sat in a red neon artery. Above me dangled cylindrical lights, deeper than a Collins glass and faded like old paperbacks. Scratched acetate played from hidden speakers behind the bar. People passed as reflected glints in the beer pumps. And through the middle walked a vision, her. Gilette. French Canadian with a British accent. Hair, like espresso with a splash of malt whiskey; brown eyes darker than a bloodstain. Alabaster skin and the warmth of another season in her face. That matched with the trim white cardigan, pencil skirt and heels was enough to hold my attention. This didn’t look like a corporate hangout.
I watched her put the first drink back. Hit the glass down so hard, tequila sprayed up her arm.
I rubbed my jaw and felt three day old stubble. I needed to find some hospitality and get cleaned up.
“Hard day then?” I didn’t look at her for more than a couple of seconds.
“My boss is a miserable prick.”
I swirled my drink, keen to see where this went. There were so few people in the bar around us I could join the dots and form a lost continent.
“But you can’t walk away from the money, right.”
She starred at the rows of bottles behind the bar. Not seeing me.
I hate it when I can’t make eye contact with someone. Becomes difficult to lure them in.
I realised then she looked right at me via the mirror behind the bar. Her gaze never wavered.
She turned and maintained the intensity.
I focused on the music. Ignored the condensation forming around the glass. Freezing my heart to her embrace.
“Do I know you?” she said.
Before I could answer she pointed an unsteady glass at me.
“I do. You’re the new maintenance guy. You came and fixed the lights on my floor.”
I smiled with an easy lie.
“Hope we did a good job.”
This was my second night in the city and I had never set foot in her building.
“I’m grateful. It took forever for that to get fixed.”
“Well they don’t want a health and safety lawsuit on their hands. I’m glad that job was quick, your boss isn’t the kind of guy I’d go drinking with.”
I moved my hand and she saw the lighter between my fingers.
“That's nice. I had one like it once upon a time. May I?”
I shrugged and handed it across.
She traced her fingers over the engraving.
“Feel familiar?” I asked.
She pulled her left sleeve back and matched the lighter to the design tattooed on her wrist. A right angle woven in barbed wire. Her second wrist revealed a mirror image.
"Unusual," I said.
She uncrossed her legs and brought her arms together so the tattoo points matched.
“Cross my heart,” she raised her glass to me, “and hope nothing dies.”
I couldn’t tell her it was too late for that.
“Any scars you want to share?” she asked as the barman gave us a refill.
“Nothing too obvious.”
She made figure eight patterns with her glass.
“I like secrets. Oh, the things I could tell you.”
She leaned closer. Breathed a conspiratorial whisper in my ear.
“Want to know the name of my obsession.”
Words wreathed in alcohol travelled up my spine, shading in the gaps of her personality.
“Wait, I’ve changed my mind.” She raised a warning finger, “and you know a gentleman should never ask.”
I saw the clock had moved past nine. I finished my drink
“Which direction are you heading?”
“I think you know the way,” she said and scooped up her bag and cardigan.
We took a cab to the nearest hotel. All marble floors and velvet corridors. Paid by her credit card. After we shut the door I threw my bag in the bathroom and warmed the shower up. She prepared drinks in the kitchen. I answered the knock on the door. Tipped the guy who dropped off the room service. I went back into the bathroom, saw her contours and joined her behind the shower curtain.
I washed her clean and carried her back to the bed, where I fucked her from behind. Hard. Calloused fingers rubbing her hip bones smooth. Neither of us spoke the whole time.
Afterwards I went into the bathroom, flushed the condom and splashed water on my face. Came back and saw an empty bed, no clothes on the floor. The lighter taken. My stomach dropped like an express elevator.
The open door beckoned me and I ran down the stairs two at a time. Out into a rainstorm. Saw traffic flow both ways. Two many people in black coats. Too many skirts in the lunchtime crowd. So I ran. Six blocks. As I reached the corner, dizziness ricocheted up my spine. Exploded in my head. I groped a lamppost to steady myself. Stumbled into the gutter. The cold water snapped me back to attention. I caught a glimpse of a figure in the distance. Lingering on the corner. She lit up a cigarette between raindrops. Blew me a smoke ring kiss from a sheltered doorway. The lighter turning, turning through her fingers. She broke my trance when she mouthed those words and walked off into the building lobby.
I followed her across the road, into the building. I had no choice. I can’t read lips.
BIO: Tim Beverstock began taking this writing thing more seriously when he turned 30. So far, his efforts have seen publication in Nefarious Muse, Troubadour 21 and the Outside Writers Collective. He also has a story in the upcoming anthology Warmed and Bound. For more info visit his website: http://beverst.com.