It Was Life

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It didn’t entirely make sense, of course. Then again, when did these kinds of things ever make sense? She stood, staring at the tree, cocking her head this way and that, as if the angle from which she looked at it would make any kind of difference.

The tree was somewhat naked; it’s branches shuddering against the wind. She understood. After all, it was only a few hours ago that she’d been in a similar, compromising position.

He’d struggled to fasten the buttons of his coat as she stood, bare and freezing, in front of the apartment windows. The curtains had been thrown back to let in the light, but it was too early and too cold for anyone to be out on the streets, so she didn’t reach for a sheet to cover herself. Instead she stood, knees knobbed together, arms tight across her breasts, her teeth chattering, as she watched him prepare to leave one last time.

“It’s just not right,” he’d said as he positioned his bright red stocking cap. She’d purchased it for him. It went against the rules, but she hadn’t really cared. And he’d worn it, clearly not caring much about the rules himself. “What we’re doing,” he added quietly as he strode slowly toward the door. His hand on the knob, he turned to look at her one last time, his eyes lingering on her soft stomach, as if that was the part of her he’d miss most. “It’s just not right.”

She’d known it wasn’t right. Affairs never were right, though, were they? Someone always knew. Someone found out or someone got hurt. She’d been there first, of course. That was how she justified it. She’d had him first. But she’d been young and immature and stupid and they’d broken. She’d never forgotten nor forgiven herself the mistakes that drove him away.

Then one day, as if fate were dealing her a hand, there he was in the coffee shop she’d frequented hundreds of times. She’d dealt with her demons by then. The ring had been in plain view. He didn’t make a show of trying to hide it nor did she made a show of pretending that it didn’t exist. A whisper. An exchange. Second chances always bring with them unparalleled bliss.

But then he was walking out of her life again. She’d let him go once. The second time felt harder, somehow. Before he could open the door she’d thrown her body into his, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. A kiss. A cry. His? Hers? An exit. It wasn’t dramatic. It was just life.

So she understood this tree, shuddering and naked, but still standing as strong as it was able. What choice did it have?

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One More Drink

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“One more drink.” The thought came to him clear as day, the voice in his head not nearly as sloshed as the voice which was coming from his mouth. He hesitated. Glancing at his glass, he observed the oversized ice cubes melting and molding together, as though they were playing a game of Tetris.

A bartender walked past. She glanced at his glass, but didn’t pause to ask if he wanted another. “Bitch,” he thought silently to himself. She had been ignoring him all night. Thank God there were two of them working.

Brian’s memories wandered to the week before. It had been his first time in this place. His other “usual” spot needed some air – a brief separation period. He’d heckled the patrons one too many times they said as they carried him out the front door, leaving him cold and alone in the gravel lot. They’d change their minds. He was just having fun – livening things up a bit. Everyone around here was so uptight.

It was just after that, stumbling home on the long, dark stretch of highway, that he found this bar. He caught the eye of the female bartender right away and she’d smiled. He’d felt his heart stop briefly in his chest before it hammered back to life. His mouth felt dry. She was gorgeous with a full face, brown eyes, and a low-cut shirt showing just the right amount of her ample bosom.

As he sat on a barstool that night, he’d slurred his way though an order. She’d only brought him water saying it was on the house. He’d thrown it at her.

They’d dragged him out quickly, but this time he had waited. He was sorry. He hadn’t meant to throw the water at her it was an accident. Sometimes, he just got so angry when people treated him like a drunk. He wasn’t a drunk. He just enjoyed having fun – and there was a difference.

When she came out, likely to drive herself home, he’d tried to apologize but she began to scream. Afraid someone would call the cops, he’d run away.

He snapped back to the present. He’d shaved his beard and cut his hair so he wouldn’t be recognized tonight. He could tell that he still gave her an uneasy feeling, but one that she couldn’t quite place. She’d know soon enough. This time, he wouldn’t give her time to scream. This time, he’d be ready. After all, if they were going to call the police and have him thrown into jail, he may as well make it well worth the time.

First, however, he needed one last drink. He signaled with his index finger. The male bartender, who had been leaning against the counter simply nodded, reached for a small glass, tossed in some ice and began to pour.