Amanda sat at the bar, nursing her whiskey sour. There was too much sour and not enough whiskey. A perfect allegory for this place. It just wasn’t the same anymore.
She watched as Jim walked through the door. Rob went over to him, and they sat down at a table. The urge to go sit down with them was strong, but she fought it. Denise was across the room with another customer. The awkwardness was heavy in the air.
One of the bartenders, Pete, walked over to her. “You need another one, Amanda?”
“No,” she answered without really thinking about it.
“Okay. Just holler if you need anything.”
“Wait. I will take another. But a little more Jack Daniels this time, huh?”
Pete smiled and nodded. The drink was better this time. As she took a few sips, the awkwardness in the room subsided a bit. She made up her mind; things had to get back to normal around here. Sitting by herself was not normal. Mingling. That was normal.
Not thinking about what she might say, she walked over to Jim and Rob. Just like old times, she kept repeating to herself. Just like old times. She couldn’t help but notice the stare Jim was giving Denise, and she pushed down a twinge of jealousy.
Before she could lose her nerve, she walked right up behind Jim and put her hands on his shoulders, then said the first thing that came to mind.
“Is he still pining?” She regretted the words as she said them, but tried to play it off as a joke.
Rob didn’t answer, but Jim shook her off. “Cut it out.” The irritation in his voice was palpable. “I am not pining. We were just talking about checking out some other bars.”
Leaving? Was it really that bad? She could almost understand Jim wanting to be elsewhere, even though she hated the idea, but would Rob really leave, too? Why? From his expression, she couldn’t tell what Rob was thinking.
“Okay. You’re not pining.” She looked at Jim and tried to act nonchalant. “So where are we going?”
“We’re not going anywhere, Amanda. But you can leave.”
The words went right through her heart. She tried to remember that he was hurting. And that it was her fault. But she hadn’t been prepared for his anger. She stood up before she started crying. “Fine. I get it.”
Back at the bar, a fresh drink was waiting for her. Pete had been organizing some glassware that was already perfectly organized. He stopped as she returned.
“So. How you doing?”
“Great. Just great.” She used a bar napkin to wipe her eyes.
“I’m guessing things are a bit awkward still?”
“Yep. But whatever. Can’t let one little thing ruin your day, you know?”
“True. Do you want some friendly advice?”
“Not really, no.”
Amanda downed her drink in one long gulp and pushed the glass back toward Pete.
She’d like to believe it was the alcohol. Or maybe that together with the way Jim had treated her. Whatever the reason, Amanda leaned toward Denise, who had come up with an order, and said, “Your boyfriend is an ass.”
Denise turned a withering scowl on her. “He’s not my boyfriend. You’re so fascinated with him, you can have him. Oh, wait…”
“Ladies!” Maurice, the owner, had walked over. “Denise, please come with me. Amanda, I told you not to make things worse.” He led Denise to the other end of the bar, leaving Pete and Amanda alone.
“Well, that was great. You think he’s going to kick me out?”
Pete looked over at his boss. “Well, he hasn’t yet. Still, you should probably keep it low key for awhile.”
Amanda nodded. Rob walked up to the bar to order a drink, and she looked over at the table. Jim was nowhere to be seen. Great. She wished that she’d stayed home tonight.