Word gets around
By the time I stopped feeling sorry for myself it was getting dark outside. Erica was getting ready for the dinner and bar crowd that surely would be showing up some time soon. I was ready for a drink myself. Getting up slowly I wandered over to the bar, and sat myself down on one of the stools lined up under the counter.
‘Back with us then eh grumpy?’ smiled Erica.
‘How long is your shift?’
‘Well we don’t open until 10, and I work until 8, so 10 hours. I don’t mind. It’s not like I have anywhere to go.’
‘So we close at 8?’
‘No, no, sometimes Luke comes in and keeps the bar open, we get an interesting clientele here, you’ll see.’
‘And if Luke doesn’t come in?’
‘You’re the barman now sweetheart, you can’t sit round lunching all day, you have to do something or you will go mad.’
‘I’ve always fancied myself as a barman,’ I laughed, lightening up and feeling my mood lift finally.
‘Let me get you a drink, what do fancy?’
‘Thanks Erica, I’ll have a …. What will I have? There so much choice!’ I exclaimed looking behind the bar and the seemingly endless shelves filled with wondrous bottles of booze.
‘I’ll pick something nice for you,’ she said as she swished away. I noticed she had changed into something a bit more suited for the evening.
‘What do you do when your shift finishes?’
‘Oh I have plenty to do, sometimes I stay for a drink, sometimes I read, but I’m also finishing off my degree by correspondence, so that keeps me busy.’
‘What are you studying?’
‘You’ll laugh at me, I’m not saying.’
‘Oh come on!’
‘I want to be a Physicist,’ she answered simply.
‘Wow, that’s impressive… why did you think I would laugh?’
‘Oh most people see me waitressing or working behind a bar and they assume I’m stupid, or that I couldn’t possible be smart enough to pass.’
‘Well that is ridiculous!’
The conversation paused naturally as well fell into an awkward silence. Erica brought me my drink. It was a delicious amber colour. In the light it sparkled with gold flecks. Turning my head on it’s side I studied Erica closely.
‘Thank you…. Erica… did you really send those others to their deaths?’
She sighed audibly as she turned around. A serious frown creasing her forhead.
‘I had too. You’ll see what it’s like.’
‘Perhaps the La Morte will be nice to me?’
‘Perhaps, there’s always a first time,’ she smiled doubtfully.
‘But what did you do?’ I asked, but before she could answer Luke suddenly appeared in the doorway, smiling like a demon and looking pleased with himself. He had a duffle bag under one arm and his arm other arm was wrapped around the shoulders of my brother Tim. My best mate, Sarah was following close behind. She looked worried. Tim on the other hand was obviously impressed by Luke’s character. He was a charismatic son of a bitch. I was sure he could win over an ice giant with his charm. If he wanted to. And ice giants existed.
Taking a sip of my drink, I was momentarily distracted by how good it was. The perfect gold-leaf whisky. Standing up, I left my drink at the bar and approached the oncoming trio. Sarah stepped forward and hugged me. She looked intently into my face. Searching for madness. A hint of insanity perhaps. Tim slapped me on the shoulder and smiled awkwardly.
‘Welcome to my new… to Café La Morte,’ I said to slice through the slience.
‘It is a lovely café, but why have…’
Luke cut her off. ‘Why don’t we all sit down and have a drink eh?’ he smiled widely. Deflecting the conversation like a pro.
We took a seat in the booth I had been sitting in earlier. Down the back. Near the bar. Erica came over with a bottle of wine and four glasses. Red. Crystal. I was sure it would be excellent. I was right. My brother took a sip of his wine and sat there looking amiable. That was him all over. A wonderful big galute. Sarah ignored her wine and looked into my face again, always searching.
‘So, brother, you’re a small business owner now eh?’ Tim laughed, ‘what gives? Bad day at work?’
‘You could say that,’ I replied awkwardly. My brother could be anything if not perceptive.
‘Damian?’ pressed Sarah. She was not going to let this one go.
‘Look, yes. It was partly due to work. I just wanted a change. I’ve been in a rut – surely you know that.’
‘Yes, but I didn’t expect this kind of stark contrast.’
‘Well the deal is done and I am going to make a go of it.’
‘I am happy for you Damian, I’m just worried.’
‘Spoken like a true friend,’ added Luke smiling his damnedest and pouring more wine for everyone, ‘look,’ he added, ‘I’ve said to Damian to give it a six-month trial. In six months if he’s not done with it, then I’ll buy the café back.’
Luke really was a crafty bastard.
‘Having second thoughts eh?’ smirked my brother, ‘it must be a good place then Dames, if he wants it back.’
I looked at Luke out of the corner of my eye. He looked like a king surveying his subjects.