David Farrell warmed his usual Friday night seat at one end of Todd's bar. Seven o'clock. If the bartender minded his own business, he could get his thinking out of the way before Labor Day party-goers descended on the club like a swarm of mosquitoes searching for prey. He had a lot to work out, but after that, he could celebrate. The prize at the end of the tunnel was finally within reach. Only two semesters stood between him and the great career he would carve for himself. Deadlines were met and the coveted seat at the top of his class sat squarely in his palms. A smile brightened his face causing a woman at the other end of the bar to wink in response. He nodded raising his glass.
The way he looked at it, he damn well deserved to enjoy the prospects of passing the bar and landing a position with a top-notch firm--faits accomplis. He was on his way to the big time. All he had to do was work out a few kinks.
David made small talk with the bartender while ordering another beer, but didn't waste any time ending the conversation.
He could kick himself clear across Texas for complicating his private life. He might as well boot his fiancé, Kim, too. The plans they made in college were so simple. He'd go to law school and they'd marry after he passed the bar. It was her fault he had turned to another woman. If she had followed through on her plans to go into teaching, none of this would have happened, but she had to have more excitement and that meant the airlines for her and separations for him. He admitted he threw her a curve too when he joined the Marines before starting law school, but what the hell? His change made sense--hers didn't.
He was building a tower of excuses for starting the affair with Karen Matthews, but so what? It all came down to one thing--he wanted a woman here when he wanted her and someone who could understand what he faced every day. Karen fit the bill.
His affair spread like wildfire among his friends, but they knew to keep quiet. So far, Kim didn't have a clue and he had to keep it that way. Her jealousy massaged his ego during college but could blow up in his face now. He had to stay focused on the future. There was no question Kim was the only woman he wanted to marry--nothing or no one would change that.
David trailed his index finger around the insides of an egg shaped peanut bowl, tracing the past year. Juggling two women had to end. He'd put too much work on his career to have it go down the toilet. Since the holidays were around the corner, Karen wouldn't expect to be with him that much--it'd be a good time to taper off. One problem solved--I'll keep Karen under wraps for the time being.
The other one wasn't as easy to fix. His secret was ripening and the hammer could fall at any time. On the other hand, it could stay buried--this wasn't the night to think about it.
David leaned his elbows on the bar pleased with himself. He turned toward the bartender giving him a high sign for another drink. Glancing at his watch, he was surprised to see the hands on the eight and the six but not surprised to hear a familiar voice.
"Hello, mind if I sit here?"
David didn't have to look around to know who it was.
"Hello back." He motioned to the stool. "It's not my bar--sit where you want." He was irritated. Sharon Berg had been after him for months and since she made Todd's her home on Friday nights too, he couldn't avoid her.
Ignoring his remark, Sharon smiled and slid onto the stool in less than a minute.
The bartender moved in front of her.
"What's your pleasure, Sharon?"
"Scotch and water," she turned toward David, "and a little conversation."
David couldn't hide a smile. "Scotch is a different drink for a lady like you."
"A lady like me? What does that mean?"
"I didn't mean anything by it. I'm just not used to a woman ordering Scotch. Forget it."
"You know, we've talked off and on, at least I've tried to talk to you, but..." Sharon stopped short as David tossed a peanut at the bartender. "Am I boring you?"
David looked at Sharon like he'd like to throw her at the bartender.
She warmed under his gaze. "Anyway, I'm Sharon Berg."
"I know who you are."
"All right, and you?"
"I'm still David Farrell, you know that."
Sharon ignored his sarcasm. "Labor Day, big weekend. Special plans?"
"Not really. Look, Miss Berg, you've got to stop following me around. I've told you over and over thanks, but no thanks. I'm engaged and that's it."
Sharon moved her face close to his. "I'm not propositioning you. I just want to talk and maybe have a dance or two."
David took her by the shoulders and pushed her away. When he did, he noticed an old coin around her neck looking as out of place with her other jewelry as a Model-T in a parade of Camaros.
"Where did you get that coin?"
"It belonged to my brother. Interested in foreign coins?"
"No, but I am interested in that one."
"I'll tell you about it if you'll chill." Not getting a response, she continued. "Okay, then. My brother was killed in Vietnam and this was among his belongings. My folks couldn't bring themselves to go through his effects for a long time and when they did, they asked if I'd like to take something. This was all I wanted. I put it on a chain around my neck and it's been there ever since. This way I feel like he's still with me. We were inseparable when we were kids, just a year and a half apart, and everywhere he went, I went or tried to go. You know how it is, I guess."
"That's tough. Sorry."
"It has been tough. I know a lot of people don't like reminders of deceased loved ones around them, but I don't feel that way."
Sharon didn't miss the change spreading over David's face. Paleness seeped through his tan like a stream of light following a storm.
"Is something wrong?"
He looked at her like he didn't know who she was and at that moment, he didn't. Sharon's blondness had deepened into shades of ebony as her wide blue eyes melted into smaller pools of coffee spiked with ochre. Todd's wannabes metamorphosed into G.I.s drinking, flirting, trying to forget what was going on outside the bar. David had a ba-ba-ba in front of him and he was trying like hell to wrap his taste buds around it. The girl sipped tea...
As he continued to stare at the coin, he was back with his unit watching two women with satchels running toward him, someone screamed, a flash of fire from an AK47 exploded, and he felt intense pain in his hand.
Sharon squeezed his arm. "David?" Getting no response, she tried again. "Hey, you all right?"
When she shook his arm, he looked down and realized he had covered his hand. He shoved the bar stool out of the way with such force it toppled over. Without saying a word, David pushed his way through the party-goers to the front entrance. Once outside, he struggled to get his breath. Between seeing flashing fire and feeling excruciating pain, all he wanted to do was go back in the club and knock the bitch off her stool. He'd have to keep his cool--there was too much at stake to let this silly pest ruin his future. Sharon Berg needed to get a life, but she sure as hell wasn't going to ruin his.