For LOST IN LOS ALAMOS Beta Readers Only - Please Do Not Share.
Seemed Like a Good Idea
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Sardines. Scott would need one of those old-fashioned keys that you rolled back the tin top of a sardine can with. The only way to get some room in there and he felt like one of them stacked in the tin.
But it really wasn’t too different from the scenes back on the coast. Same loud music, same early drunks, same people who miraculously looked a whole lot different - and better - than when you saw them on a normal day. He saw her through the crowd and Bobbie was no exception.
She was different. She seemed happy. Scott was glad of that. The black dress brought out the luminescence of her china doll skin.
“Luminescence? Did I just think that?” he thought, as he turned and shifted from side to side, trying to squeeze through the crowded barroom to the two tall cocktail tables the younger girl and her friends occupied.
In the middle of sipping some colorful drink in a martini glass, she spotted him. He was wearing the only decent pair of jeans he had left and his best thick white v-neck showed off his tight torso under the light jacket he had brought with him from home. He had shaved and it made him look pretty young, with a bit of gel to make his hair look messed up. Basically, he dressed like he did when he’d go bar-hopping on Sunset, but without the fashionable stubble.
The bright red lipstick around Bobbie’s mouth formed an almost perfect “O” and her eyes widened, not believing what she was seeing. Scott immediately felt very old when he had the thought that she was showing too much cleavage, even for the small size of her breasts.
“Oh!” She squeaked. Her friends on either side looked up in the same direction to see what was up.
“Scott!” She climbed down from the high stool with some difficulty, the tight dress restricting. Scott had almost made it to the table as she worked her way around it to come to him.
He was already on olfactory overload from the closeness of the crowded place, perfumes and bodies and booze mixing, when Bobbie Girl reached up and around his neck to give him a hug. He wasn’t prepared. This wasn’t in his plans and he knew he had to resist, but was clueless as to how.
Three things hit him at once. The first was that he was aware that she was purposefully not pressing against him. She was keeping a space between them. Interesting. The second was that he could see her friends, who Scott could tell were more conventionally pretty and more fit than their heavy friend, and they were looking on with what was undisguised shock. Scott could not escape the implications. He took in so much in that momentary glance. The third and more unsettling thing was that Bobbie was wearing the same perfume as Sienna had worn.
“What the hell?” he wondered. Bobbie broke before Scott could finish any other thoughts or observations.
“You were smart to come!” she said, her smaller voice having to rise to be heard and made it just a bit shrill for his ears. She led him to the tables. Scott noticed that she had her hair done differently. Instead of limply hanging to the sides of her head with stringy strands she continually had to tuck behind her ear, she had braided it back. While it exposed her fleshy neck and showed off the fat rings, the skin it exposed appeared soft and smooth and pink and the shiny braided sides and back gave her a Dutch Girl look.
“Smart?” he thought.
“This is Scott. He’s from LA!”
There were the two girls who had been sitting to the side of Bobbie and two guys on the other side who looked too young to be in the bar. One of the guys was medium size and had a bad case of acne which he tried to avert attention from by having a shock of his black hair fall across his eyes. Acne Boy looked at Scott like he was an old geezer. He must’ve been all of nineteen.
One of the girls said, “You’re not from here. I would have seen you around before now.”
The other girl said, “Unless you’ve been in some specimen freezer at the Lab all this time.” They had a good laugh at that.
“Not this LA, the Los Angeles LA,” Bobbie informed. They tried to hide being impressed.
The other guy at the tables looked like a normal guy that could be anybody he chose. He seemed chill and just gave a non-committal head nod to Scott.
“Two and two and Bobbie and me. Great,” Scott thought, but then decided that there weren’t any couples in the group.
Bobbie’s two girlfriends, however, just stared at Scott. The first of the two girls was pretty attractive to Scott, but he knew he was still too old for her. He did the odds anyway and decided the play was there if he wanted. Bobbie seemed oblivious as she rattled on all about Scott and his mission there.
Scott tried to relax himself so that he could endure this close contact and being the outsider with the younger people. He told himself to just be with the situation as it really was, rather than how he feared it might be or end up. He was thankful he was not that age anymore but he tried to be with them despite their immaturity.
Bobbie asked him if he needed to eat and offered to order something for him if he wanted. She knew the staff there, having gone to high school with a lot of them. A quick Sonic bomb in his belly on the way there had been to ensure he had something in his stomach when he poured alcohol into it, so no, he wasn’t hungry.
Scott insisted Bobbie sit on the stool that she was seeming to reserve for him to sit on. She was reluctant to sit up on it again because the dress was tight and she was short so it was a bit of an awkward climb up onto it. Scott held his arm out for her to use as a railing to pull herself up and she managed it with one hand on his forearm and the other keeping her skirt from riding up too far. She had to be pretty strong to do that with her proportions. Scott was aware that she watched his eyes to see whether they wandered or not. They did not.
The Captain’s Table was what would be called a Supper Club, which meant it had semi-formal dining and a separate bar and dance floor in another attached room. It was a staple of the older crowd and a signature of the Midwest nightlife that Scott was used to. The Captain’s Table seemed to work a bit hard to attract a younger clientele as the older numbers dwindled during the post-Coronavirus era.
Scott tried hard not to judge all that he observed around him. But he had joined in with Bobbie and her flavored martinis and sooner than he would have thought, he was really liking the place. He was really liking Bobbie. He was really liking her girlfriend, Teresa, even more though, and it was a real struggle not to keep glancing to find her staring at him. He even liked Acne Boy. He liked everybody.
Slowly, unconsciously, Scott slipped into his Hunk persona. Hunk was not someone who showed up often, but he lurked in the background and the invisible man became visible when he was clothed in alcohol or weed or sex drive. It’s not that he was unaware of Hunk’s existence, but it was so easy to excuse him away as merely an effect of the altered state he would find himself in when he wasn’t watching out.
The Look. That sexual/male/animal energy that Hunk exuded, or turned on, or whatever, was channeled through his eyes and the set of his mouth in a slight, disarming smile. Had you asked Scott about Hunk during any other time outside of a bar or party, he would claim almost genuine ignorance of him.
As the countdown clock wound down toward midnight, Bobbie became sleepy-eyed and her gestures began to grow. Her two girlfriends became more open in their attention to Scott and Normal Guy had come to stand next to him, presuming a buddy-buddy connection that permitted an air of familiarity with Scott. Scott assumed that it was purely to cash in on the excess of attention from the young women directed toward Scott.
The more drunk Bobbie’s friends got, the less attractive Theresa became. Bobbie, while a little too far gone for Scott’s superior sense or propriety, nonetheless came off as the more level-headed, and therefore more attractive to Scott. Not that she was attractive enough to do anything about, but in theory, maybe she could be.
What they all talked about was the usual under the influence, and there was nothing significant Scott felt he needed to hang on to. Still, Bobbie and her friends were somewhat entertaining and Bobbie did not try to keep a spotlight on herself, instead shining it on Scott. When he was able to step aside himself, he was able to take more notice of her.
“What is your girlfriend’s name back home?” she finally asked. All of the other standard questions had already been hit by the others and mostly from Theresa, which Bobbie noted and had surrendered any of her own intentions to. Theresa and Bobbie’s other girlfriend had missed this question as they ordered more drinks.
“Back home?” Scott asked to gain time to decide how to go with this.
“You must have one, right?” Bobbie said, not appearing to fish for an answer she wanted. Any hope aside, it was a foregone conclusion in her mind that he had one.
“Not really,” Scott chose to answer. He could hear himself just fine and had to acknowledge it was a lame cop-out, so he continued with the truth. “We broke up not too long before I came out here.”
Bobbie reacted in a way that surprised Scott. Her thin eyebrows furrowed, messing up her smooth forehead and her eyes suddenly glistened with sincere sadness fueled by the martinis.
“Oh, God. That’s a terrible thing. I hate it when couples break up.” She brought a delicate, pudgy finger to her glistening eyes that were highlighted with mascara and eyeshadow and much prettier than they had been in the beginning of the night.
In just a brief moment, Scott fought with what to say. Should he say that he was over it? Then she’d know there was an opening for her. Should he say that he didn’t really know what the future would hold for for him and his ex; that he hoped it would be temporary to put a wet towel on any prospects she might have?
“Thanks, Bobbie. Me too,” was what came out.
Back at the end of the bar, one of the bartenders rang a big brass ship’s bell that was on an ornate pole. When he had everyone’s attention, including Scott and Bobbie and the group, he began a countdown.
“Ten! Nine! Eight!...” The whole room joined him. It was something for Scott to watch as all of the disparate and individual groups suddenly came together to act as one. Conversations ended. People started to pair up. Some avoided others’ eye contact. Acne Boy looked over to Bobbie’s friends and they just smiled at him and shook out a NO. But since Bobbie and Scott had coincidently turned from looking around and then to each other, Theresa snatched Normal Guy’s attention and he stepped around Scott to her like he’d just won a prize and stepped up onto the stage.
“Four! Three!...” the countdown continued.
With a quick movement, Bobbie reached up to Scott’s jacket collar and pulled him closer, rising as much as she could on the skinny stool.
Scott immediately thought she was going to smooch him and his face started to shrink in defense of that. Instead, Bobbie went to his ear with her mouth.
“I won’t make any meaning from it. Promise!” She pulled away enough to show him the sincerity in her eyes, still teary.
“One!... Happy New Year!” Hoots and yells and cheers and hugs and kisses and raising of glasses and bottles made the room surge in waves and sounds as Bobbie closed her eyes and offered lips that had faded from the bright red to pink sometime in the night. And Scott was glad of that.
That close, and under the influence of the night, with her offered disclaimer to ease his mind, she looked especially pretty and since he couldn’t see the rest of her to bring his prejudice to bear, he kissed her. It was a big one.