At the bar, Gabriel shook off his soured mood. Aided by the hard rock music blaring from the overhead speakers. He settled onto the bar stool again and noticed that his cigarette had nearly burnt itself out. He flicked the ashes and then took another drag as his eyes scanned the room. That’s when he saw her sitting at the end of the bar. Dark haired, pretty, and sipping from a martini glass. Totally out of place.
He bided his time. Waited until she finished off her fancy drink and enlisted the bartender to offer her another. She declined. Gabriel grabbed his drink and smokes and headed down the bar toward her. She was busy ignoring a man who looked twenty years her senior. But the man persisted. Clueless he chatted her up until he inspired a betting pool at the other end of the bar. Gabriel felt sorry for the guy. But not too sorry. I’m here to save you further humiliation old man. You can thank me later, he thought as he gestured to the empty seat on the other side of the woman.
“Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt, but is this seat taken?”
The man stopped mid-sentence. He looked away, back to his drink, his shoulders slumping in defeat. “Suit yourself,” he mumbled.
The woman remained silent. Gabriel sat, but she ignored his presence too and continued to partake of her cocktail. He cleared his throat, tapping his crumpled Marlboro package against the bar counter. Finally, she relented.
“Is there something I can do for you?” she asked.
“No, not really,” he replied, offering her a cigarette. That, she declined as well. Plan B. He got bolder.
“Excuse me ma’am, but I have a question?”
At first, she pretended not to acknowledge him, but seeing that he had no plans to leave, she eventually turned her attention in his direction.
“I offer the lady a drink, but she declines. Now I offer her a smoke and she still declines! Well, I guess I’m about all out of offers.” A bemused look painted her face. “Unless she has something else in mind.” He said with a lift of his brow.
Bingo! This time, he had her full attention. He took a moment to survey her features. Just as he first thought—Long brown hair, big brown eyes, supple lips, flawless skin. Beautiful.
“Ma’am? Really? Do I look that old to you?”
“Well, I dunno. Nowadays with that Botox and what not.” He grinned as he made a small motion in the air with his free hand. She smirked and snatched the cigarette from his hand. The bartender approached, leaning in to quickly offer his light. She took a long drag, her red lips twisting as she blew the smoke out the side of her mouth.
“I’m not looking to be picked up tonight, so maybe you shouldn’t waste your time.” Her gaze dropped to his left hand. “Besides, shouldn’t you be home with your wife?”
Gabriel placed his hands over his heart. “Ah, you got me there. But you know,” He said, knocking back the last of his drink while spying the sizeable diamond on her ring finger. “I could ask the same about you.”
“Don’t have a wife.” She kept the cigarette and slid closer, smirking. “But I do admire your confidence. Where’d you get all that from?” She said waving her free hand in the air.
“Years of rejection. I have nothing to lose,” he deadpanned.
She laughed showcasing the dimples in her cheeks before taking another pull of the cigarette.
“May I buy you that drink now?”
Her laughter tapered off replaced by a wide, disarming smile. Gabriel found himself a teenager again. Pining for the homecoming queen.
“I haven’t finished this one yet.” She replied to Gabriel as the bartender moved in front of them and asked if they needed a refill. Gabriel nodded in the affirmative, trying to balance himself on the barstool and toughen the schoolboy grin he knew was plastered on his face.
“Fill’er up!” He exclaimed, punctuating it with a burp. “Oh, pardon me.” He pulled another cigarette from the pack and stuck it in his mouth. “May I borrow your lighter again, good sir?”
“How about you just keep the lighter?” The Bartender placed it on the counter top and then set a fresh glass of bourbon in front of Gabriel.
“Thank you very much.” Gabriel raised his glass in mock salute before turning his attention back to the woman. She watched him with curious eyes. His hijacked cigarette burned bright between her blood red lips. Once it died, she stamped it out in an ashtray and tapped her fingernails against the bar counter. He wanted to fill up the silence, say anything. He thought of his wife, how it had been months of barely speaking to one another and when they did, it was usually in anger or indifference. As if sensing his thoughts, she crossed her legs, causing her skirt to rise.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
He caught a flash of her bare thigh and a surge of energy went through him.
“I’m thinking…” He leaned closer. “Why a woman like you is slumming it in a place like this?”
She laughed. “How cliché, I thought you’d have something better than that.”
He grinned, sipping his drink, wanting to savor the flavor and knowing that any moment the bartender could cut him off. Sayonara. Gabriel noticed her noticing him and decided to play along. His gaze traveled lower, taking in the view of her designer high heels.
“See something you like?” She teased.
Yes, he was married and yes, flirting with a woman that wasn’t his wife, might not be the best thing to do. But this was fun and, Gabriel thought, what was the harm in some innocent flirting? He knew where his bread was buttered. He backed away, turning in his seat, absorbing the atmosphere around them. More people had come into the bar during their exchange. The aisles had become jammed with men and women holding various glasses of lager and mixed cocktails. His former seat now occupied, he had no choice but to stay put. He smirked. Now she was stuck with him.
But as she carried on a conversation with the bartender about some wine she’d had on vacation in Italy, his conscience got the better of him. Gabriel peeked at his phone. Nothing had changed. You’re still a walking dead man, the voice in his head cautioned. If he was going to go out, he’d do it on a high-note. He turned back to the woman in time to catch the end of her conversation with the bartender. She smiled at him and he thought, for better or worse.