I hope you enjoy my entry below, which is a dialog-driven scene from an untitled novella I shelved about a year and a half ago. One day, I'll dust it off and finish it!
“One more, sugar?” Dani’s coquettish smile reached over the bar like fingers, caressing the middle-aged man slumped on the stool. She didn’t wait for his slurred response. He was a five-bucks-a-round tipper and he’d been here all afternoon. What more could a girl ask for on an otherwise slow Tuesday?
Keeping her legs straight, she reached down for the beer cooler below the bar. The man leaned in for a better view. Heavy-lidded eyes squinted, as if by sheer concentration he could will her shorts to stretch and reveal yet another inch of firm thigh. As Dani’s hand wrapped around the handle she glanced up and froze.
One person stood alone at the far end of the bar. An explosion of adrenalin shot through Dani’s body, like she’d slipped on a slick floor. She stared at the face that was both as familiar as her own and oddly foreign. It’d been almost two years since Dani had last laid eyes on her cousin, Nina.
Dani straightened, squared her narrow shoulders and jutted one hip, but it was too late to play off her surprise. Nina smiled slyly, looking, Dani thought, like a satisfied cat with its paw on a dead bird. Dani leveled her eyes and sauntered down the length of the bar.
The man hollered, “Hey! Wha’ abou’ my beer?”
“I’ll be right with you, darlin’,” she said sweetly over her shoulder. When her gaze fell back on Nina, she sneered. “Well, well. Look who it is. You must be lost, or are you just slumming it?”
“Hey Dani. You look great.”
Dani responded with a cold smile. Nina rocked back and into the beam of light from a spot directly overhead. The light cast a harsh glare, so that her face suddenly looked pale and gaunt, her eyes lost in shadow. Dani’s smile melted as she sucked in her breath, taking in her cousin’s skeletal silhouette. Nina had always been a plump girl. How had she become this emaciated form?
Nina straightened then and took a step forward to place her hands on the bar. Now, freed from the harsh light and enveloped by the warm glow of a Budweiser sign hung on the wall, the illusion was lost. Nina’s teenager curves were indeed gone, but Dani realized the caterpillar had become a butterfly.
Dani brushed a curl and the disorientation from her face. “Seriously,” she said coolly, “what are you doing here?”
“Come on, cuz!” Nina smiled, showing her teeth. “It’s been too long. I missed you.”
Dani flinched as if she’d been slapped. “Whose fault is that?” she spat. “In two years, you haven’t returned my calls, answered my letters. Hell, you scratched me off your fucking Christmas card list!”
“I know, I know. I’ve been a bitch,” Nina said softly. “I really have missed you. I want you back in my life, Dani. I need you --”
Dani’s nostrils flared. “Oh. I see. You need something from me.”
“No! It’s not like that,” Nina replied quickly. “I want you to come with me. On a trip!”
Dani raised one eyebrow and cocked her head, her speech slowed by sarcasm. “A trip--?”
“Hey Swee’hear’! I’m gettin’ thirsty over here!” shouted the drunk at the bar.
Dani rolled her eyes. To Nina, she muttered, “Just a minute.” She walked away, cooing as she went, “Oh my God! I completely forgot what I was doin’!”
When Dani came back, Nina was perched on a stool. Dani placed a glass of cabernet sauvignon in front of her. “On the house,” she said without emotion.
Nina grinned at the peace offering and looked into her cousin’s face. “It’s really good to see you, Dani.”
Dani narrowed her eyes to mask her crumbling resolve. “What’s this all about? You wrote me out of your life. I haven’t see you for years, then today --,” she shook her head, sending a long ringlet across one eye, “-- you show up here out of the blue and tell me you want me to take a trip with you?” Her face froze in mock confusion. “I don’t think so.”
Nina moved the untouched glass of wine to the side and leaned on the bar. Her collar bone protruded noticeably. “Okay, we’ve had our share of problems.” Dani snorted impishly but Nina ignored her and went on. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time we’ve wasted--”
“We’ve wasted time? Please. I have reached out to you so many times since…well, all that happened,” she stammered. “You shut me out.”
“I know.” Nina suddenly seemed tired. “That’s why I’m here. I want to fix this -- thing -- between us. I want my best friend back.” The sincerity in her voice was unmistakable. She was looking Dani right in the eyes. “When we were little, we used to dream about going to the ocean. Remember? Let’s go! It’ll give us time to talk. To heal. Come on. Let’s go to the beach!”
Dani stared at her in disbelief. “You think I can just pick up and leave with you? I have a life, a job! We don’t all have the summer off, like you teachers.”
“You can’t take a couple of days off?” Nina said it looking past Dani’s shoulder, scanning the near empty bar. She returned her gaze in time to see Dani’s eyes flick, almost imperceptibly, downward. Nina pressed on, her voice more confident. “Think of it. You and me, relaxing on the white sand, cold beer in hand. Working on our tans. You know,” she added, “I’ve still never been to the ocean?”
“What? Are you kidding me?” Dani almost sneered. “Why the hell not? It’s only four hours away.”
Nina simply grinned, indicating with a raised eyebrow that she was still waiting for an answer.
Dani checked her fingernails, forcing boredom into her voice. “Sorry, cuz. Can’t do it.”
Nina sighed. “Are you sure? ‘Cause I’m going one way or another. I’ve already paid for the hotel. And,” she pointed theatrically toward the front windows, “I rented that for the trip.”
Dani followed her finger to a shiny red corvette parked in the lot. Her eyes opened wide, “Shut up!” she gasped. “We’re going in that?”
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