Sean studied his drink carefully. Not a day went by that he didn’t think about his old friend, scotch. They went way back, and it was really too bad things had to go the way they did. He flicked the glass, and a dozen bubbles scurried to the surface of his ginger ale, breaking the spell.
If he could, he’d walk backward, past one hundred and ten weeks of sobriety, and then twenty-something weeks further, until he reached a time when he still enjoyed drinking. While there, he’d order a double and toast tonight, which happened to be the worst Valentine’s Day of his life.
He loved her more than anything. He hated her even more than that.
“Last call,” said Craig the bartender. “Not that it matters to you.”
Craig slid a glass over to him. “Here’s your ginger ale, big spender.”
Sean pointed across the room to the bar’s only other occupant, a buxom blonde with a thousand-yard stare. “What’s she drinking?”
“Gold-label tequila,” he replied. “Top shelf. The sipping kind.”
“I always took her for a daiquiri girl; maybe a margarita if she wanted some fire in her water.”
Craig shrugged. “She’s usually a gin and tonic. Must be a special occasion.”
Sean threw a ridiculously large bill onto the counter. “Get me one more of those.”
“Gin and tonic?”
Sean picked up the bill and threw down a different one. “The denomination will go down every time you ask a stupid question.”
Sean replaced the bill again.
Without another word, Craig poured a glass of gold-label tequila. Sean replaced the bill on the bar with the one he’d originally left, flashed him an ambiguous smirk, and strolled over to the blonde with the drinks. As he sat next to her, he asked, “Thinking about him?”
She blinked, but didn’t look up. “Thinking about who?”
“Shannon,” he replied, “we both know who I’m talking about.”
“What makes you think you’re talking about the person you think you know I’m thinking about?”
“Same way you know who I’m thinking about.”
She relaxed and turned to him. “Apples.”
He was used to the way her mind careened from topic to topic, like a caffeinated pinball. “Oranges?” he replied.
She slapped his forearm with a weak grin. “No, weirdo; I bet his lips taste like apples. Granny Smith apples.” She sighed. “I hate that he goes home with her every night.”
“I both hate and love that she goes home with him.”
She lifted her fresh glass in a salute. “To unrequititude.”
He saluted back. “So,” he began by way of conversation, “what do you think you’d say to him if he were here and she wasn’t?”
“That’s a good question,” she said, furrowing her brow. “How would I phrase it?” She bit the inside of her cheek in deep concentration for a moment before lunging forward and kissing Sean furiously.
When she pulled away, Sean took a moment to fan himself with a beer coaster.
“Or something like that,” she concluded, averting her eyes with a blush. “So how did that taste?”
“Top-shelf tequila,” he replied.
“If I were her, I mean.”
“Want to get out of here?” Shannon asked.
“Right behind you,” Sean told her and gulped down the last of his ginger ale, pretending it was scotch.