The Mistresses and The Frenchman
Pam sat alone at the bar in the Green Light, doing the books there on this Wednesday afternoon like she usually did because Wednesdays were dead (she and Rusher the bartender were the only ones in the place) and the office felt too isolated. The bar had the typical warm ambiance of a dive. There were TVs mounted on the wall at each end of the bar as well as in the corners across the room. The bar top and tables only looked as clean as the generations of glass rings staining the wood would allow, which most people didn’t notice because the peanut shells and bits of pretzel salt from the ever present bowls were a nice distraction. There was a jukebox to one side of the room, an updated digital kind that the boss had recently splurged on.
The door of the bar opening startled Pam and she watched the woman who came in stroll to the bar and sit down at the opposite end of it. Rusher the bartender, who looked like he’d come out of the womb with a martini shaker in one hand and the knowledge of a perfect draft pour in his head, moved down the bar to serve her at a pace that matched his last name. She was a traditionally attractive woman with long dark hair and a figure with just the right amount of curve to it. Her low cut blouse accentuated her breasts in a way that made Pam envious. Sure, she was well-endowed herself, but even in a bra her breasts lacked the perkiness required to pull off that look. The woman made Pam think of Carolyn Harmon accusing Pam of being one of her husband’s mistresses. If Pam had to pick out what she thought his ideal mistress would be, it would be the woman sitting down at the end of the bar.
The woman ordered a vodka tonic and then turned away from the bar to watch the door.
Rusher served her and then moseyed at his usual pace back down the bar to where Pam sat so he could lean against it and resume their conversation.
“Don’t think I’ve ever seen you move so fast to serve someone,” Pam said with a smirk.
The friendly jab didn’t faze Rusher.
“Don’t think I’ve seen a prettier woman in here on a Wednesday afternoon.”
“I like how you say that like I can’t rec to the boss that you should take a pay cut for the greater good of the business.”
Rusher laughed. “Jealousy isn’t a good look on you, Pam.”
“Who said I was jealous?”
“If you’re not jealous, then why are you squinting at her like that?”
Pam checked the configuration of her face.
“I’m not squinting.”
“You’re looking hard at her.”
“That’s because she’s the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen in this dive on a Wednesday afternoon.”
Rusher laughed again.
“And I’m wondering who she’s waiting for.”
“How do you know she’s waiting for someone?”
“She’s watching the door.”
Rusher lightly slapped Pam’s arm with his bar towel. Pam was happy it was dry for a change.
“Curiosity will get you in the end, Bendixen,” he said.
“So I’ve been told. But being curious at a distance is pretty safe.”
The front door opened, spilling a shaft of almost too-bright daylight into the bar, cutting the cool dimness with all the harshness of a semi-sharp knife. A blob of shadows morphed into two women, who blinked almost in unison as the door closed behind them, their eyes struggling to adjust as they looked around. One was tall, blonde, and, like Pam, overly voluptuous. She wore a brightly colored dress that matched her equally bright lipstick. She was pretty in a youthful sort of way, the kind of pretty that would linger as she aged before one day giving it up in a rush. The other was an athletic black woman dressed like she was either coming from or going to the gym, yoga pants and a t-shirt, her natural hair in a poof held away from her face with a headband. She was a strikingly good looking woman. One look at her told Pam that if the woman wore a little black dress, a touch of mascara, and the slightest hint of lipstick, there wouldn’t be a man in her presence not in love.
The black woman caught sight of the woman at the bar first and elbowed her companion. The two made their way over to her.
Pam watched as they sat down next to the woman already at the bar and Rusher hurried down the bar much in the same way he’d done before to take their orders. The athletic woman got a screwdriver; the blonde ordered a Cosmo.
Rusher set their drinks in front of them and then shuffled back down the bar.
The three women sat together, but didn’t speak, a thread of tension stretching between them. This wasn’t three girlfriends meeting in a dive bar on a whim to begin a fun little girls’ afternoon. This was some kind of meeting with an uncomfortable agenda that no one really wanted to approach.
“Hey,” Rusher said, jerking Pam out of her thoughts. She looked over at him. He smirked at her, like he caught her daydreaming. “I need a break. Can you cover for me?”
“Yeah, sure,” Pam said, forcing the fog of speculation out of her brain. She gathered up her work. “I can’t believe that you’d dare take a break with three pretty women sitting at your bar.”
“They’re nursers. I’ll have plenty of time to observe and serve.”
“Right. Let me just put this in the office.”
Pam walked out of the bar and hurried to the office, ditching her paperwork on the desk, stopping long enough to lock the office door before hurrying back to the bar. She was afraid she might miss some development in the live action soap opera happening. Pam forced herself to slow down just before hitting the bar area, strolling casually back behind the bar.
“Okay, you’re good,” Pam told Rusher.
“Thanks, Pam,” Rusher said and he produced a pack of cigarettes from under the bar. “I’ll be back in fifteen or twenty.”
“Okay,” Pam said and Rusher disappeared down the hallway, no doubt to go out the backdoor to smoke since the boss frowned on employees smoking out front. Pam didn’t know how it could possibly ruin the look of a dive bar, but apparently it did.
The three women still sat the bar, nursing their drinks, not looking at each other, not speaking. The tension, though, had changed somewhat, like it was about to break. Someone was going to say something and they were going to say it soon and for whatever reason, Pam wanted to hear it. Bookkeeping for a bar was surprisingly boring. This looked like it could be interesting.
Pam moved down to the middle of the bar, looking like she was trying to get a better view of the TV mounted on the wall at the end of the bar where the three women were sitting, but really it was so she could catch any snippets of conversation that might come floating her way.
She didn’t have to wait long. It seemed that Rusher’s absence uncorked whatever was shaking up in the bottle they all held.
“So, now what do we do?” the blonde asked.
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