Another Saturday night and the regulars are already seated. The jukebox is playing the same song it’s played almost every night since I opened the place. It’s still early, so there’s not enough noise to drown it out and strains of The Joker reach my ears. The song used to bring back fond memories of my days in college, but it’s been played so much it’s getting on my nerves. I long for the weekends when it’s so loud I can’t hear when it plays.
The setting sun shines through the windows and I squint as it reflects off the bar. Though it’s blinding, it only lasts twenty minutes before the sun dips below the building down the street. Squinting seems a small price to pay for the ability to view the rich red tones highlighted in the wood. At least, the days when Atlanta’s not covered in smog. I maneuver out of the glare to check my vodka supply on the back wall.
The scrape of a barstool on the floor prompts me to turn.
Adam is a married father of two and comes into my bar each day after work to have a drink before he goes home to domestic bliss.
He nods his head in my direction, his blond hair drooping in his eyes. I grab the rag to wipe down the bar on my way to him. It’s not really needed, but it reinforces the impression I’m concerned with cleanliness, which is always a good thing around customers.
“Lucia. JD and Coke.” He slides a twenty over to me.
I glance at him while I make his drink, debating whether to ask him what’s going on to bring him in tonight.
“Here you go, sugar.” Retrieving the money, I move to the register to make change. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” He doesn’t make eye contact.
Got it. It’s not okay, but he doesn’t want to talk about it yet. Those JD and Cokes ought to help with that later.
On the other end of the bar sits a lovely woman in her seventies. Emmalee was widowed a few years ago and has been in here every Saturday night since. She always orders the same drink: Mint Julep. Such a Southern belle, that one. She’s a Devil Went Down to Georgia, for sure. Just like Adam’s a Cat’s in the Cradle.
I assign most people a theme song. Sometimes it takes a while for me to pinpoint it. Other times, it hits me right away. Adam’s was immediate. Emmalee’s took a bit longer. You might wonder why I chose her song. It’s simple, really, but it doesn’t seem to fit right away because she’s so sweet and unassuming. You’d never imagine the secrets that woman keeps. Well, maybe you would, but I didn’t. She absolutely floored me when she told me what she used to do for a living.
I’ll spare you the lurid details, but she got her start in a circus as the pretty half of a knife-throwing act. She’d stand there with balloons or apples or some shit and her late husband would throw daggers at her. No, thank you.
“Lucia! I need another.” She waves her empty glass at me.
I smile at her, reach for a clean glass, and start mixing. Adding mint leaves from my potted plant on the counter behind me as a final touch, I hand over her drink.
“How are you tonight, Em?”
“Just peachy, hon. I’m on call tonight, so watch my stuff if I have to walk away, would ya?”
“Sure.” She’s a great tipper, so making sure nothing happens to her drink or seat while she’s away is no problem. I clear well over two hundred every night she’s here. The first time she asked me to do it, I thought she was joking. She confided what she was leaving for and my mouth hung so low my jaw is still recovering. But it was no joke.
As if on cue, her phone rings. She looks at me and shrugs, her blue eyes twinkling, before hitting the answer button.
“Hello, darlin’.” She speaks with a low, seductive voice. “I’ve been waiting for your call. Have you been naughty today? Mistress Scarlett will have to punish you.”
I chuckle as she walks toward the back door, where I have an open area with a catwalk. No one ever goes out there anymore, so she’ll have some quiet.
“There’s a sight I’d like to see again.” A deep voice sounds from my left as I bend to retrieve a new bottle of bourbon.
Snorting, I straighten up. “What can I get you?” I ask before really looking at him. And I’m glad I did because those are the last words I am capable of uttering.