Greenhouses, bright lights, and dirty panes

I guess this is a series now? The first part can be found here.

Tradition and society wouldn’t like me very much right now. Engaging with a woman who makes the first move and the buys the first round? Madness. Despite the palette difference of her pale fingers sheathing my brown wrist, if I closed my eyes, she could be anyone. Another assumption indeed. As our field trip to the bar ends, Red props herself on the pub chair, one leg over the other. I spy a tattoo of what I could only assume to be a green hot-air balloon. How curious.

“Well, here we are my esteemed colleague. Are you still planning on broadening your horizons?” she said, eyes fixating on my chest. “Hmm, that’s pretty cool. Where’d you get that necklace from?”

In my buzzed state, somehow my necklace exposed itself.  It is the only piece of Samar I have left. Sure, we ended things two years ago in the restaurant across the street, but I’m totally over it now. I’m clubbing now aren’t I? Fuck, here comes the awkwardness.

“This old thing? A friend gave it to me some time ago. We got matching ones and agreed to wear them, whether we’re together or not,” I lie, trying to avert her cobalt gaze. I pick up a drink menu as the bartenders buzz around in front of us like drones in a smoked out beehive, completely disoriented. Or maybe I’m more toasted than I thought. God damn, what was in my drink?

Red smirks, finally conquering my feeble attempts to avoid those cerulean marbles in her head. She pats the pub chair next to her, an invitation to enter her personal space. Defeated, I saunter over doing everything in my power not to stumble. My foot catches the side of the chair and I catch myself on the bar counter instead of the floor. Thank god.

It’s weird to hear one person chuckling in the middle of hundreds, but that is her burden to bear. After picking up my ego and what’s left of my composure, I plop down adjacent to the tattooed leg. A bartender stops by to make sure I’m alright. I say I’m fine and he disappears back to the hive of well-dressed and probably underpaid servers.

“Looks like you’re more drunk than you thought huh? That’s okay, that means this gets easier. But that’s super cute you have a matching necklace with your friend. Why isn’t she here?” Red asks, almost too eagerly.

Choosing my words carefully, I say, “I’m fine, so if you think I’m easy, well you’ll be in for a rude awakening tonight. And why does my friend have to be a girl huh? Didn’t we just talk about how assumptions get people in trouble?”

Red leans in, “Call it an educated guess. Unless you and your ‘male’ friend like orchids so much you both got a necklace of one that fits together. That sounds a bit suspect. I mean if you are playing both sides of the field, I’m not judging.”

I snort out a laugh. This girl is something else. The bartender comes back and has enough coordination to lay down napkin coasters. I’m not sure why he’s swaying though. Or is that me? Fuck.

“Can I get you two anything to drink?” he asks, his handlebar mustache twitching slightly.

Red looks over at me, the menu, and then says, “Actually, you can. My friend here will have the ‘Ginny in the Bottle’ and I’ll take a ‘Scarlet Letter’ for myself.”

The bartender turns toward me. “Anything for you boss?”

The sheen from his coiffed hair was making me squint like a pirate. “I think I’m alright man, thanks a lot.”

“Sure thing, those drinks will be right out.”

Red stares at the bartender as he recesses into the hive once again then she turns to me with a crinkle in her nose. I couldn’t keep bullshitting this girl for too much longer. The liquid courage turned truth serum was dampening my ability to deflect her questions.

“So, are you going to tell me the story behind that necklace now?” Red says, putting her thinly veined hand on my thigh. She might as well have had a match.

“Why do you want to know so bad? It’s obviously a keepsake of my former gay lover. Good job Sherlock,” I say, stifling another chortle. She makes a face then squeezes my thigh. So this is what being branded feels like.

Red scoffs, “Why are you so against telling me? What are you trying to hide?”

In so many words, I could tell her that the string around my neck with a crude resin orchid piece is the last vestige of my sad, rom-com pipe dream of getting Samar back. I could tell Red that, even after nearly three years, some nights I still carve my future with Samar on my popcorn ceilings. In this environment that’s completely antithetical to everything I believe myself to be, I could tell her that there’s a girl that’s stolen my heart and I haven’t the balls to get it back from her. In fact, I want her to keep it. It’s the only way to avoid dying a second time.

“I’m not hiding anything…except this boner in my pants,” I say, throwing caution into the wind. Self-sabotage is my favorite defense mechanism.

Red doesn’t even flinch at my weak-shit cop-out. “I mean, if we’re being honest here. I was going to fuck you regardless. But that’s not the point. You still have some explaining to do about this necklace Mr. Man. Just tell me,” she says, moving her hand from my thigh to the warm shame growing adjacent to it.

She takes her free hand and pulls me by the shirt to her lips. She tastes electric and with nothing to ground me, I fry from the inside, out. I try to pull away for a breath, but then she takes her naughty hand mashing us together to thrust her tongue into my throat. The lack of oxygen and my intense gag reflex prompts her to release me. Unbeknownst to us, our drinks magically appear with no bartender in sight. We were too busy drowning each other to notice his presence I guess. Half of Red’s lipstick is gone and I imagine it looking like warpaint around my mouth.

Red takes a sip of her Scarlet Letter, “You’re still in love with her aren’t you?”

“A rare occasion where an assumption doesn’t get you in trouble, look at that,” I say. There’s no point fighting it now, sex be damned. “Yup, I’m still not over her, after all these years. She’s probably burned her half of the pendant by now.” I take a swig of my Ginny in a Bottle. As someone who hates gin, this is pretty good.

“I think I can help you forget about her. At least for tonight,” Red says, uncrossing her legs. “Come on, let’s go dance.” She takes her drink in one hand and sheathes my wrist with the other.

With my free hand, I grab my Ginny in a Bottle and finish it in two swallows. My first wish is for deliverance. From what or to what, I haven’t thought about yet.