Since my brain is a little loopy this evening, today’s offering is the start of a story that never really got off the ground. I’ll post the rest of this scene tomorrow. Enjoy 🙂
Ava Santos handed her sensible jacket to the blank-faced cloakroom attendant of the Ladies’ Club, barely glancing at the woman as she received her ticket stub, eager to get off her feet. With a nod to a table full of familiar faces just inside the decorative glass doors, she aimed for her usual stool at the far end of the highly polished, cherry-wood bar. Gina was busy serving a group of stuffy exec types – flirting shamelessly despite their obvious discomfort – so Ava dropped her bag on the bar, shimmied underneath the serving entry, and poured herself a large glass of white from the reserved fridge. Beads of condensation pearled on the sides of the glass, trailing slowly down to the coaster beneath and a satisfied sigh escaped between her perfectly made-up lips. That was a hell of a day.
Holding a cool puddle of the fruity liquid in her mouth, Ava gazed at the mirror that ran the length of the room. The dimly luminescent spotlights – better to hide the time-ravaged faces of the Club’s inhabitants – twinkled at the edges lending a surreal quality to the eclectic collection of after-work regulars. Directly behind Ava’s stool were the plush couches, home of the more well off members. Four two-seaters and three armchairs – upholstered in easy to wipe black leather – clustered around low tables that were buffed after hours on a regular basis by Gina’s well-toned backside. Only two women occupied them at present, both in their mid-forties, blonde and well dressed, clutching G&Ts in their magnificently manicured claws. Moving past them, Ava’s gold flecked, hazel eyes rested on a quiet group of five women wearing Government Issue uniforms and tipping back glasses of gleaming amber liquid – whisky? – in a bid to court oblivion in the most swift and efficient manner possible.
Best steer clear of them. She sighed and took another gulp of wine.
The familiars she had passed on her way in were at that stage of drinking where the initial eagerness has given way to an easy comfort, glasses neither forgotten nor raised as often as before. They were a mixed bunch – some smart, some casual – two blondes, three brunettes and a rare red head. Ava wondered, as she always did, what they had in common that drew them together here with such frequency.
Along the bar from her own solo stool, a lone woman with a slim glass of red wine and a battered paperback pushed her glasses higher up her delicately formed nose and took a sip of her drink. Ava tilted her head to get a better view of the book’s spine, trying to be subtle but failing as the woman shot a questioning gaze on her. Oops. Caught in the spotlight of her sudden attention, Ava blushed and shrugged her narrow shoulders, a tight smile lifting the corners of her fuchsia lips. “I just wondered what you were reading.” The reader raised a pale eyebrow and turned her wrist in reply, displaying the title – Madame Bovary – before turning away again, obviously uninterested in further conversation.
Gina waved from the other end of the counter as the execs shuffled away from the bar, balancing drinks and snacks with purses and bulging briefcases. A smile of genuine warmth made Gina’s face all the more beautiful, her green eyes alight with pleasure as her ears lifted a little into her curly mane of tawny hair. “How’s my best girl?” She asked, sidling past boxes and barrels towards Ava. “See you got yourself a little pick-me-up already” Nodding at the almost empty wine glass, she ducked down at the fridge, deliberately showing off the curve of her rump and the length of her shapely, black clad legs as she grabbed the bottle of white to refill Ava’s drink.
“I couldn’t wait today.” Ava shrugged, knowing that Gina never minded. “How’s your day been?”
“Dull as a lecture on the correct way to load the industrial dishwasher.” As Gina leaned closer, ostensibly pouring the wine, a waft of sweat and cheap perfume wrinkled Ava’s nose eliciting a throaty chuckle from the barmaid. “Sorry, I’m a bit ripe, I know.” She kissed Ava’s cheek, lingering longer than friendship normally allows.
“I doubt I smell much better after the day I’ve had.”
“You wanna talk about it?” Gina rested an elbow on the bar and settled her face into her good-listener expression – All wide eyes and serious mouth.
Snatches of conversation drifted through Ava’s mind – We regret to inform you… accident… sent to a camp… – The same few phrases that had plagued her since that morning.
“Not really.” She shrugged. Some things were better buried in a hole and drowned in alcohol. She took a huge gulp of wine and almost choked, snorting with the effort not to spray it all over her friend’s face. With an effort, she swallowed. “Just leave me the bottle.” She gasped.
“You got it.” Gina smiled reassuringly and sauntered away to tend to her flock of brightly coloured bottles.