Inside of a bar, after hours. Dusty, smoky air, you can almost taste the stale stench of old liquor and sweat by just looking at it. There is wait staff buzzing the last tables, in the corner a young man is rolling up cables and other music equipment.
“Hey Cameron, make sure you get it all put away. Don’t need any of it to grow legs on me. And roll up the cables, will ya, last time one of the waiters fell over it and was out for a week.”
“You got it.”
“When you’re done, swing by my office, ok?”
About 20 minutes later, the young man knocked against the wooden doorframe of the open office.
“Come on inside kid. Look I wish I had better news for you now, but here, this envelope is your last pay. I am sorry, but tonight was your last gig. Just not bringing enough money to keep ya around. Really sorry, kid. Hey, close the door on your way out.”
“OK.” the young man’s face turned gloomy. Dang it. He was tight on cash as is, he really could not use this now.
On his way home he stopped by another bar, one that would be open until the early morning hours. He needed a drink now.
He climbed up on the barstool and ordered. A cold beer would at least make him feel better on the inside. He was on his second when a woman climbed on the stool next to him and ordered two whiskey on the rocks, downed the first one in one drink, then worked on the second.
He raised his eyebrow, looking at her briefly, then back at his beer.
“What?!” he heard, the tone sounded challenging.
“Yeah, you. Got a problem?”
“Because I am a woman I cannot drink?”
“Sure. I don’t want any problems.”
“Then don’t look at me like that.”
“Ok, I won’t.”
Great day, he thought to himself, trying to work on the beer a little faster.
“Hey, sorry about that. I had a shoddy day, didn’t mean to take it out on you.” the woman now said, her tone calmer, apologetic.
“Yeah no problem.”
“Can I buy you another beer?”
“No need. I am leaving anyway.” he said, emptied the rest, slid off the chair and walked out. The cold night time air felt refreshing. He felt a tap on the arm, turned around. The woman from the bar.“Sorry, really. I hope you didn’t leave because of me?”
“Nah, need to get home.”
“To the wife and kids?”
“Nope, just home.”
“Look, I kinda stayed out a bit late and I have no car. Any chance you can walk with me a bit?”
“Why me? You don’t know me. For all you know I could be what you are afraid of.”
“Nah, I am good at reading people. You’re safe.”
“OK, if you say so.”
“I am Fey.”
“OK Ben, I am a bit tipsy. Any chance we can go grab a coffee together? I am buying.”
“OK fine. There is a diner just two blocks from here.”
“Lead the way!”
“So you like your coffee black, huh?” the woman said.
“Not very talkative, are you?”
“Just got fired.”
“Oh wow. Is that why you are so gloomy?”
“Wouldn’t you be?”
“Probably. I just broke up with my boyfriend. Really thought that one was a good man, but he is just like all the others. I know how to pick them. Cheated on me that bastard.”
“Didn’t you say you are good at reading people?”
“Only when I am not dating them.” she giggled.
“Wanna hear something funny? My name is actually Felicia. Yeah, but I won’t be using that anytime soon. So I go by Fey.”
“That is funny.”
“Hey, I am not normally like that, but … can I go home with you? I think we both could use a little fast fun, and what do we have to lose, right?”
“Are you always so forward?”
“Nope. Offer only valid today. So, Ben, what do you say?”
“You know what Fey, why not?”
“Cool place. Could really be something, with a little effort.”
“Nice, not even all the way inside and already insulting my taste.”
“You want to tell me you decorated this?!”
“Ok, maybe not, but I don’t mind it.”
They sat on the couch together.
Awkward at first, then Ben just placed an arm around Fey. She acted at first like she did not like it, but seemed to be ok with it after all.
Then suddenly she just started petting his thigh, then leaned in for a kiss, that turned pretty intense fast. She stopped petting him, leaned in and whispered in his ear.
“All right, so where is your bedroom, Ben?”
The night was wild. Ben had dated before, but this would be his first one night stand. They actually ended up laying next to one another, giggling, telling each other bad puns. Too bad this was a one time deal, Ben thought. Turned out Fey was actually really witty, smart and really beautiful. She took a shower, while he made coffee, then it was his turn. When he got out, she was gone. Only a note on the table.
He smirked. Bittersweet. He really couldn’t afford dating right now, at least not until he found another job. Just what? His grades in school had never been stellar, too much had happened when he was still in high school, especially when his dad died all of a sudden. He had planned to go to college, but could not afford it. None of his relatives were rich, his mom was estranged, he did not even know where she lived now. The closest relatives were his grandparents. Well, his granddad Blaine and his wife Viktoria. But they didn’t have much money and he did not want to bother them with his problems.
He started looking online for job openings. Anything to bring in some money.
Two weeks and about a dozen interviews later, he was on his way to yet another. This time some data entry job, something boring behind a desk with terrible hours, but at least it paid well. IF he got this one. None of the other ones worked out so far.
“I am here about the job opening, I called, appointment for 10 AM.”
“Ah yes, I see, with Mr. Wilkerson. I’ll let him know you are here.”
Few minutes later he was seen to a room and parked for a while, before the door opened and an old man and a young woman entered. Ben stood to shake hands when he just about had a stroke. Fey! He shook her hand, she looked equally shocked, while the older man was getting his documents set up.
His phone rang.
“This is Ben?”
“Hey Ben. Do you know who this is?”
“It’s Fey. I am calling to offer you the job!”
They discussed a few details when she ended with the usual greetings, then added.
“Hope you like a woman on top. I am going to be your supervisor!” she giggled.
Ben thought awkward! So much for one night stands.
“Hey Ben, you wanna go grab dinner tonight? Like an unofficial welcome? I am buying!”
“Yeah, sure sounds good!”
Dinner went well. Except it ended back at his place. In the bedroom.
So now it was a two night stand? With the boss? What the hell am I doing, other than getting myself fired again?
Truth was, by now he was really into Fey. She was fun, she was smart. Someone who could hold a conversation. He really liked her. A lot. But to her it was only casual sex, as she kept insisting. He lost count by now, but she continuously refused more than just that, or even just go out see a movie together, anything else, she was determined to keep things casual and in the bedroom. His bedroom. Ben wasn’t.
During one of their nights together, she lay snuggled into his arms, when he decided to bring it up again.
“So why can’t we be more?”
“Ben, not again.” she moved away from him, got up and went into the shower. She did not lock the room, so he followed. Leaning in the doorframe, watching her nicely shaped body behind the fogged up glass had him feeling all fuzzy again.
“Fey, really, give me one good reason? We are good together. Why not even try?”
She did not answer. So he went in. Right into the shower with her.
“Ben, no. What the hell are you doing?”
“You are not going to get them in the shower.”
She pushed past him and left. He walked by her and stood in front of the closed door.
“Ben, my clothes.”
“Let’s talk first.”
“I do not want a relationship. Not right now. And not with you.”
Ouch. Her last comment stung. But he did not want to let go that quickly.
“Why not me?”
“Are you serious, white boy?”
“Oh, now suddenly you are racist?”
“I am not, but the world still is. And the circumstances are. Look Ben, you are a sweet guy, and I like having sex with you. But that is as far as it can go. I would not even know how to begin justifying any of this.”
“Justifying? Prejudiced much?”
“Oh, that’s just rich. White boy is trying to talk to ME about prejudice? In case you had not noticed, I am a black woman in the corporate world, trying to climb the ladder among old white men, who think that women belong in the kitchen, and don’t even get me started on racism. Most of them still are surprised when at some business luncheon I order something other than fried chicken and watermelon!!! I am your superior, you report directly to me, and you are even younger than me. How much more do yo need?!Ben, really, THIS is not happening, and if you cannot deal with that, it ends right here. Now get out of my way.”
Ben was so shocked at her words, so he moved, then stood there, watching her get dressed.
Once she was done, she came back to him, ran her fingers across his chest, kissed him and said
“Don’t take it so hard, baby.”
“What if I quit? I cannot change my skin tone or age, or the douchebags you apparently deal with, but that is something I can fix.”
“It won’t work, Ben. Just let it go. You are a cute guy, you should not have a hard time finding a nice girl to play house with. I gotta go. Bye, baby!”
One more kiss and she was gone.
Ben might not look like Blaine, his granddad, but he did inherit his charm. And persistence. It took him 3 weeks, but finally, at long last, she agreed to come with him for a real date. At DaCapo’s. It was well outside of his price range, but he wanted her to know that he was not afraid to flaunt her and that he did not gave a shit what the world thought about them.
Maybe this impressed her, maybe it was his persistence, but other than resuming business as usual at work, they actually began to date. Went to movies, went on walks, to the club, just hung out at his place.
One morning at the breakfast table, it dawned on Ben. This was more. This was what he wanted. Every day.
Ben wanted to know more about her family, but she avoided the topic like the plague. Was she maybe embarrassed to introduce him to her family? Or the other way around?So he thought, maybe if he started it, she would follow suit. Unfortunately, the only family he had were his grandparents, so they would have to do. He called Blaine’s phone, but no answer, so he tried Viktoria’s. She picked up.
“Hey Benny! Long time no hear!”
“Yeah, sorry about that. Had a lot going on. Hey is Blaine with you?”
He called them by their first names. One of the many reasons for that was that both of them were vampires and just did not age, hence the terms grandparents just did not suit and made everyone present feel awkward. He felt more like friends with them, than a grandson.
“He’s here. We’re over at the Auditore’s.”
“Oh, sorry, I guess I’ll let you get back to it. Just wanted to come over and introduce someone, but maybe some other day.”
“Hang on, Ben …” he heard her talk to someone on the background but could not make out much of the conversation, then she got back on the phone “Hey, come on over, and bring your friend! Blaine wants me to tell you, if you do, he’ll show you that thing on the guitar you texted about.”
“Uh, ok .. you know what, sure. We’ll be over in 45 minutes.”
No better place than the Auditore Mansion to impress your girl, Ben thought.