It was the newest drink on the menu and in the city that night, and everyone was trying it because of the catch phrase that came with it – Get Jaq’ed, Get Happy – No Regrets. At first glance it was just like any other cocktail – some very potent v-poison and some OJ together getting jiggy in a giggly jigger. So it was a screwdriver? So what?
But it was what the word on the street was that was giving Nicole reason to give it a whirl.
“ ‘No regrets,’ right? That’s what the add says.” Jenny’s sassy thick ginger hair flared when she turned her head to Nicole. “And how many times are you going to get your hands on a drink that gives that kind of promise in your life?”
She sat atop the worn leather barstool in a fashionably tawdry pair of ripped Levi’s and a cotton wife-beater undershirt. She had the body for it and she knew it. She always knew it. If the boys looked, she considered herself in the right place.
“Yeah, I know what it says,” Nicole countered in her jean skirt and matching t-shirt. “It’s alcohol; they say what you want to hear.”
“No, no,” Jenny said. “Not this stuff, Nick. This is the real deal. You know Gloria and her boyfriend, Ray from Accounting? They were with me last weekend at Drummer’s and they ordered one and split it. And, I’m telling you, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They were high, drunk, and,” she paused, shaking her head in search of the words, “I don’t even know. It was like they were fucking monastic or something. They were paying for other people’s drinks, food, and parking tickets and shit. It was weird.”
Nicole rolled her eyes knowing full well just how typical it was of Jen’s stories. They always seemed to unfold this way – something mundane just happens to turn into something fantastic.
“Nope,” said Nicole. “I’m not buying it.”
“You don’t have to buy it,” said Jenny, linking her offer with an easy reaction. “I’ve already bought one for you.”
Just as Jenny finished her words, a tall foggy cocktail flute arrived at the bar in front of Nicole. The bartender, black bow tie and all, placed it there with an almost silent ceremony.
“Aside from me not wanting to play guinea pig in this cocktail experiment, have we discussed yet how much one of these things is? The advertisements are claiming it to be upwards of $45 a serving.”
“It’s actually more here,” Jenny said, unaffected. “It’s more for status, I’m guessing. Drink up.”
Nicole gave her best friend the look – I just said I’m not going to do this. She slouched for emphasis of her unwillingness drink the libation simply because her friend got it for her.
“I just told you, I’m not doing this,” Nicole said.
Jenny’s face turned into a faux pout, emphasizing the upside-down smile. “C’mon. For me. I haven’t even tried it. Think about it this way,” she said, “you’ll be the first to share our stories for once.”
Nicole gave another sigh. “Fine. But you’ll be the one with the stories when you’re driving me home in an hour.” She lifted the short flute and raised it slightly to Jenny. Here goes, she gestured.
The sweet liquor flooded her mouth and Nicole’s eyes closed in gentle acceptance of the feeling. It was sugar, and fresh air, and calmness. It was sexy, and colors, and silk. It was water, warm and inviting, and there she floated.
The flute’s fall upon the hard wood floor was a crisp tune of a task’s completion, and now seeing the girl’s flaccid form resting now upon the bar, the bartender walked over and dried his hand on a faded white hand down before placing then flat on the bar in front of Jenny.
“Looks like your friend could use a hand. How ‘bout I help you get her a place to lie down?”
“That would be great,” Jenny said. “I kept telling her to eat something before meeting me tonight. Just a few minutes should be fine. There somewhere around here we can call her a taxi?”
“You bet. There’s a phone in the back.”
The bartender walked around the bar and helped Jenny shoulder Nicole into a room past a wooden door at the back of the bar labeled to the rest of the world as PRIVATE.
The door closed behind them and the scattered bar sounds of generally-accepted reality dimmed to a mild hum.
They eased Nicole’s limp form to rest upon a dried wooden bench, which sat up against a dull back wall.
“Here,” the bartender said, opening a long drawer at a nearby office desk and removing three roughly-wrapped wads of hundred-dollar bills. “I’ll have her waiting for you at the bar same time tomorrow night. She’ll be wearing smiles and ready to tell you all the wonders of her new drink of choice.”
“And she won’t remember,” Jenny looked around and gestured to both the bartender and the darkness of the room in general, “any of this?”
The bartender smirked above his still-shiny black bow-tie. “No regrets, right?” he said.
Jenny nodded. “She always wanted a boy,” she said.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
Jenny stuffed the money into her Levi’s and left the gruff-sounding man and closed the PRIVATE door behind her as she left. The bar’s atmosphere was as jovial and unassuming as she left it.