Helena | Adam
THERE WAS A SMALL PART of me that wished I could drink while I was bartending, because after the day I'd had, I could really do with a little something extra to take the edge off. After getting into an argument with my sister, missing my train, and spilling coffee on my favorite shirt, I was just about ready to throw myself into a corner.
"Another gin and tonic please, girly," Reginald grunted, pulling a few bills from his wallet and slapping them down on the counter. He was one of the nicer customers who came through Marty's Pub & Grill, and I felt myself smiling slightly at the older man, in spite of myself. "Keep the change. It looks like it's been a rough night fer ya."
"You could say that again, Reg." I laughed humorlessly, shaking my head.
Setting aside the creepy as hell customers who spent more time leering at me than drinking their liquor, my boss, Marty, had just told me that he was planning to cut my shifts back by half over the next few weeks. They weren't as busy this time of year, and it was due to the weather, as cold as an arctic blast, running a lot of tourists out of our scenic, coastal town.
My mood finally started to look up when I knocked off just before midnight, got my coat, and hurried toward the exit. Marty had surprised me, letting me leave just before last call, but I knew it probably had more to do with pity than the fact that I often worked overtime for him.
There we still a handful of customers inside who were all three sheets to the wind, and I tried to ignore one of the loudmouths who catcalled me. Dragging my phone out of my drawstring bag, I kept my eyes down on the screen, checking my texts. I still hadn't heard from Adam. Disappointment dropped like a stone in my belly.
"Where are you going, sugar?" a deep, familiar voice behind me boomed, but I continued walking, gaze trained on the door; my avenue of escape. "Stick around. I'd be happy to show you a good time."
Gritting my teeth, I told myself it wasn't so bad. It really wasn't. I grabbed the handle, yanking the door open. As far as jobs went, it could've been worse. A lot worse. It wasn't worth it.
Despite the self-talk, I hesitated, lingering in the doorway.
The outside air was cool, stirring the strands of hair that had escaped my ponytail, and before I could process what I was doing, I turned to the big, burly guy—the repeat offender who liked to hit on me, and countless other women, before he went home to his wife and kids—and raised a finger at him. "I'm going to say something I should've said when I first started working here. Fuck off, Jack." I forced myself to swallow. "And if you ever proposition me again, I'll be sure to tell Cheryl the next time I'm dropping Emmy at school where, and how, her husband gets his rocks off."
At the mention of his wife, Jack's face paled, and he cast his eyes away.
My skin prickled with a chilling awareness, knowing I'd probably only added fuel to the fire. So it was a good thing—a very good thing—he didn't rile up, because my false bravado was already starting to wear thin.
"Holy shit," one of the regulars sputtered, breaking the tense silence. He raised his beer in my direction with difficulty, spilling some of it on himself, and grinned over at me toothily. "Always knew you had it in you, sweetie."
Warmth crept into my cheeks, and I ducked my head, wheeling back around. "Night, boys," I said, before stepping out onto the street and into the night. I spared Marty a cursory glance, sure that he'd be dipping into my tip jar for the next few shifts, but satisfaction was trilling through my veins, eclipsing that knowledge for now.
So worth it, I concluded, hunkering down deeper into my coat.
The sky was dark and blanketed by low-hanging clouds, and as I walked to the train station, I bit down on my lip. That was one hell of a way to dress Jack down. Wanting to share my small victory with someone else, I withdrew my phone from my back jeans pocket.
Hovering over Adam's name in my message history, I exhaled in a fast rush and typed out, Don't you love that feeling when you finally hand someone their ass?
Almost as soon as it delivered, a message popped up, and a big smile split across my face.
Hand? Ass? Is this your attempt at sexting?
I think I can work with this.
I'm being serious, perv.
I know. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.
There's this gross guy who hangs around at the bar I work at a lot, always trying to score. But the problem is, when he gets too many knock-backs, he starts coming onto the staff. Hence the gross factor.
Am I going to like how this story ends, Helena?
He's been hitting on me for months, and I've just somehow justified to myself that I needed to put up with that. C'est la vie or whatever. Well, no more. I told him to go fuck himself tonight.
I don't know, I thought you'd be proud.
You thought right, sweetheart.
What? Am I not allowed to call you that?
I (accidentally) fractured my ex's arm with a baseball bat. I swear like a trooper. All I do is give you sass. Maybe you should rethink the whole "sweetheart" thing.
I lowered my phone and waited as patiently as humanly possible for him to reply. When his answering message blinked back at me, I rolled my eyes good-naturedly.
Okay. So I gave it some thought.
...Nah. I think I'll stick with sweetheart.
If you're sure.
A few minutes after I sent that text to Adam, my phone buzzed in my hand.
I'm going to be back home in Portland for one night next week.
The rapid change of subject had my head spinning. I forced myself to take a deep breath—to just breathe—as I watched those little dots dance on the screen again, indicating that he hadn't finished typing.
And I was thinking, if you're not busy, maybe you'd come into the city and meet me?
A tiny flare of panic punched the air out of my lungs, and I stopped walking, absorbing his words.