Jade A. Waters
She waits for him outside the bar. It feels longer this time, a slow crawl up a steeper slope. Above her, the neon sign glows like a halo she doesn’t deserve—an interrogation lamp under which she omits something, as easily as “Cocktails” flickers on, off, on… It’s a faint buzz trying to be there, but not quite. Another man asks her for a smoke; she shakes her head, because she can hardly see him.
It’s hard to see anything when she waits for him.
The bouncer nods at her, mouths, Coming in? She isn’t ready. Not yet. They’ve been here one thousand times before. Everybody knows them, their laughs together. They talk secrets of the world, and anecdotes from here to the galaxy over so many drinks and smiles. Those smiles she always sees: in her dreams, in the songs she writes. In her heart.
She can’t quite get him out of her heart.
This, she knows, is the problem. It’s the reason she stands here now, though there’s so much more to it—the way he speaks to her, often, or answers the phone to be sure she’s all right. It’s how he looks at her like she’s his comfort and the answer at the end of a hard day. Like she’s the one he’s been waiting for this long.
The air feels colder tonight, but it often does before he comes. It’s not right that he can warm her through with the sound of his laugh, or the bite of his lip while he ponders a response to some moralistic question in the middle of their third round. She thinks of this now, the bite of the lip, how he does it without realizing the catch of her breath, and she crosses her arms over her stomach, waiting. Waiting. Why is nothing more important than him?
He’s behind her, fingers sliding through the strands of her hair in a gentle caress over her neck. She wonders if he sees the flutter of her eyes when his skin meets hers, if he hears her sharp inhalation as he leans into her ear. His is an aura of confidence and love, and that scent he always wears, making her wish she could tilt her nose against his chin to breathe him in, feel the stroke of his fingertips up her thighs or over her naked back like she used to. His body is firm and protective. Close—before he remembers maybe he’s not supposed to touch her like this. His fingers slip from her skin, taking with them everything that makes her heart skip.
The “Cocktails” sign flashes on again. It lights their faces, and the ring on a finger almost tucked in his pocket when he comes around to face her.
“Have you been waiting long?” He gestures toward the door, and she shakes her head.
“Nope. Not long.” She smiles. He smiles.
Bites his lip.
Once they go inside, their bodies are close.