No one knows better the depths to which men will sink in pursuit of sex than the bartender. Believe me, after a few years behind the mast, he's seen it all. Look carefully at the next bartender you meet and you'll see it around the edges of his eyes. The myriad disappointments and slights accumulate there, ever ready to turn and bite the keeper. Father confessor to the drunk, cruise director of the bar, dispenser of poison and absolution and amateur psychoanalysis, he will help you drown your crisis and laugh with you as the bubbles stop. A pharmacist with a severely limited inventory, he will prescribe the temporary balm your soul needs to survive. Just ask. And just pay your tab.
I once was one of those high priests of inebriation, my pulpit one of ancient mahogany and brass in a faded downtown hotel. It had been quite fashionable some decades earlier, but now was a haven for several retired individuals with government housing deals keeping them sheltered. It was also populated by those downtown office denizens who preferred the happy hour over the drive home and the occasional working woman. I had recently been rescued from the ranks of the gainfully employed by a "restructuring" and had sought some employment to keep afloat until the next project opened. The owner offered this hardly lucrative position to me through the timely departure of his previous bartender. She had taken off one weekend with a very good salesman and left her shifts uncovered. I'd been glad to step in originally, but after the first few weeks, the monotony was painful. I wouldn't starve, but I might die of ennui.
I spent a lot of my time doing small mindless things like passing glasses through the washer and wiping the bar. I was polishing my favorite spot when the Pickup came in. She appeared to be in her late twenties and was one of the few regulars that actually tipped. I smiled at her and reached for her glass, one Seven & Seven, tall. The first one would be mild, but we both knew I'd make up for it as she got numb. She was a fixture here from the times I had frequented the other side of the bar. She was dating a cop then, some senior detective assigned to the City Hall beat, being more like on the Mayor's staff. The first time I met her, some eight years ago, she was with him. Looking very much like a trophy on his arm.
She was still quite attractive, though the miles were beginning to show, A few pounds heavier (which I pretended not to notice), a few silver hairs among the dark roots of her once honey hair. She had more than ample breasts and her legs were great. She was the kind of woman that looks like a movie star before closing time. In the intervening years, her romance had soured and failed, and somewhere along she stopped thinking of herself as a trophy. I had seen her seek the company of strangers before, not exactly a chore for her, especially if one doesn't bother weeding out the married ones. She didn't.
She parked on the stool in front of the glass washer station and greeted me with a sullen, "Hello."
"Hiya, Nora," I replied. "How are ya?"
She leaned across the bar and stage-whispered, "Better than you've had lately."
I had no doubt about that. My long-time girlfriend had sought greener pastures some months before, taking everything, including my desire for revenge.
"You'd better bring a lunch, Babe," I told her, "'cause it's going to take ya all damn day." I looked her in the eyes and raised an eyebrow in emphasis. She tossed her head back in typical response to our running joke. She had left with others, but never with me. We managed to stay just friends and the few times I had accompanied her to her door, it was in rescue mode, not rutting mode. She had a formula, a test she could apply in the first few seconds of a meeting that decided the outcome. I had seen her operate and she was good, very good. If her decision was no, no amount of begging could change it. Once she decided on the flavor of the night, he didn't stand a chance.
For a Friday, the evening began slowly and peaked early. The usual flood of regulars thinned out to a trickle soon after the traditional happy hour ended. That didn't prevent a string of attempts to snag her, however. At one point, a fellow from a table of four (three Bud Lites and a Miller Draft) was close, and even his buddies threw their collective support behind him, buying her sevens. In the end, he too was rebuffed. They left after a round of consolation, probably for the stripper bars, where they were more assured of not getting laid and more comfortable with the prospect.
Some time around midnight, I became uncomfortably aware that she might have set her sights on me. I'm still not sure what the trigger was. We flirted viciously as always, but at some subtle point there had been a change and there was a tint of seriousness to our already colorful language. I found myself backtracking, not wanting to press the issue and at the same time wondering why. After all, her rejection wouldn't mean much to me, not after some of the things we'd said. And her wanting me was probably just her settling for something from mediocre pickings. Still, she was physically appealing and certainly available.
Frankly, though I didn't mind not being her first, I still hoped to be someone's last. I really didn't see much chance of that happening with Nora. She seemed somehow driven to go through men like a case of beer on a road trip, tossing the empties at road signs. By the time I started the closing routine, she had made her intentions plain. She'd stopped drinking sevens and had water with a twist instead. She also spent nearly a half hour in the Ladies room, freshening up, something I had never seen her do before. Maybe I just hadn't noticed.
I had just loaded the last cooler and had carried the empty cases out the back when she finally came out looking great. She had somehow peeled the last several years off and polished the girl underneath. The few die hard regulars still nursing their beers ceased conversation and stared in obvious appreciation. From the look of expectation on her face, I was supposed to be appreciative too. And I was.
I let her have a low whistle and a wink, at which she did a little pirouette and let her dress flow out around her. She danced to her perch and smiled broadly at me across the polished mahogany. The owner finally showed to collect the night's receipts and helped usher the last customer out the door. We found ourselves outside, arm in arm, making our way to her car. Suddenly a little flustered at the prospect of having to go through with all those threats I had made, I found myself at a loss for words. She mistook my silence for apprehension and began immediately to reassure me. I told you she was good.
She had me drive, the obvious choice since she'd been drinking earlier and I hadn't. The early morning traffic was light and most of the surface street signals were flashing yellow. As I piloted us to the suburbs, she leaned over the console and clung to me, her head resting on my shoulder. Somehow, she had left the drunk back at the bar and become a young woman out on a date, showing her beau affection.
I, on the other hand, grew more and more apprehensive without the slightest clue why I should be. Finally I managed to pack it all in small box and mailed it to myself in the middle of next week. Meanwhile, I was determined to have a good time with a warm and willing woman. Even more, I was determined to show her a good time. Perhaps it was a matter of another male ego rising to the challenge, so to speak, but I intended to give her my best shot. Maybe even make an impression. Certainly make a memory.
We turned on final approach into the parking lot of a sprawling apartment complex, one of those pastel and primary painted buildings reminiscent of "The Prisoner." I fully expected to see the white translucent bubble bouncing down the pavement. When I finally killed the engine in a parking place, her pretty face so near mine, I kissed her lightly and she smiled.
"Lets go in," she whispered. I evacuated the car.
Inside, her apartment was cleaner and neater than I had ever seen it. In the half dozen or so times I'd been there before it always appeared lived in. Never dirty, just cluttered and sometimes strewn with the last few days of working clothes and dry coffee cups. This time, however, there wasn't a stray bra or blouse in sight, not a dish in the sink. No unopened mail or unread magazines, no butts in the ashtrays were visible. On the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room was single rose in a clear tulip vase. I was stunned. I turned around the room in awe, then watched her make us a drink on the counter.
"The place looks terrific, Nora," I told her. "Absolutely terrific."
"Thanks," she said smiling. "Just for you."
Although I doubted that, I did appreciate the sentiment. I searched for more to say, but there were no words that seemed adequate for the situation so resorted to mere flattery.
"And you look terrific too. Always did, to me."
She smiled and reached behind her and that nice business dress slid silently to the floor. She wore a white bra with little pink flowers, rimmed with soft lace and a pair of pale blue silk panties. Her legs were bare. She stepped away from the pool of cloth spread on the tile and around the end of the counter to face me. There was an aura of raw wanton sex about her, pheromones flowed from every pore, her smile an open invitation, yet it was still my move. She seemed poised on an edge looking at me so helpless and lost as if I was the only one on the planet who could save her.
I reached out for her and she melted into my arms.
We began our dance there on the tile, trading kiss for kiss, touch for touch. For every button I freed, she did two. She had my zipper down and both hands inside my slacks, fishing for my growing desire before I could unbuckle my belt. We shed the rest of my clothes between the counter and the bedroom, her lips seldom leaving mine. Standing in the doorway, I reached around her and unhooked her bra. She shrugged and those marvelous vanilla mounds spilled into my hands. I caressed them softly, dragging kisses around and between them as I slid my hands down her sides and pushed her panties to the floor.
She took my hand and pulled me along into her bedroom. Even by the dim light that trickled in from the kitchen, I could see the room was as tidy as had been the rest of the apartment. She let go of my hand long enough to draw back the covers of the queen size bed and jumped in. Rolling onto her back, she held her arms aloft to me and spread her legs in wide surrender. To me, she looked positively delicious. I dove for the spot next to her and more or less fell into her embrace.
We kissed again, her tongue dancing with mine as our arms and legs intertwined. Her strong, well shaped legs wrapped around me and pulled me into her, without any guidance, our bodies fitting together like perfectly matching pieces of some precious keepsake in dire need of glue. I felt her surround and envelope me. I didn't enter her so much as was subsumed by her. She was the center, the heart, the very reason for being at all. Every ounce of energy we could muster was expended for only one purpose, our total gratification. For my part, I held my rhythm back, unwilling to finish too soon, determined to make this grand event last. I planted more kisses on her face and neck, circling around to take her left earlobe between my lips and massage it. Nibbling the outer edges of the rest of the ear and licking behind it, I wanted to survey every inch of this wonderful creature of pleasure.
I eased back and out of her getting up on all fours and smiling down at her. She looked a bit puzzled so I kissed those full lips again, drinking in their pure affection like a fine wine. But those weren't the only lips I wanted to kiss. I paid homage to her breasts for long moments, taking great care to treat them equally. They were, quite frankly, the most perfect and beautiful ones of their size I had ever seen. At least a 'D' cup and tipped with dark dollar sized aureoles with a rosebud in the center of each, their warmth and soft suppleness aroused me beyond my own belief. I consider myself a leg man, not a clavicle admirer, yet I found myself immersed in their worship.
Finally edging southward, I sought the moist forest between her thighs, searching with touch of lips alone as if blind. I found the valley I sought and slipped my tongue inside and down, separating her nether lips with a tender kiss. As I returned and made a third pass down those sweet ridges, I felt the pearl of her womanhood swell and rise under the ministrations of my mouth. I let my tongue tease all around it before enclosing it in my lips and sucking until it just touched my teeth, ever so gently. Then I repeated the process.
Her breath became ragged and sharp. I was totally engrossed in generating her pleasure with my silent speech and I spoke volumes to her.
Suddenly, she clamped her thighs around my head and her back arched up, lifting her butt up off the bed and taking my face with her. I grasped her butt in my palms, keeping my tongue busy tapping out the Morse of pleasure on her feminine telegraph. She let go a shriek of enjoyment and her legs spasm-ed. I felt her warm juices drenching my face and chest and I held on, clinging to her with lips and hands. Her butt came down and bounced on the bed as she relaxed slightly from the waves of ecstasy. I relaxed too and relented momentarily before resuming my oral attention to her. This time, I approached slower and softer than before and she shivered and whimpered in anticipation. But I couldn't keep it slow and soft for long. With the fingers of my left hand spreading those sweet lips and my right index finger just inside, I concentrated once again on that bright pink pearl with licks and kisses. I ran my finger along the ridges on the ceiling of her womb until she rewarded me with a jerk of her legs and a sharp cry. I gave her my energy, my desire, my heart, through the ends of my finger and tongue. I poured out my soul and she drank with a terrible thirst.
This time, her climax built quickly and brought friends. Again her wetness flowed around me and her body shook and bounced and rocked from side to side in the high surf of sexual release. I swam the warm waters with gusto, ever mindful of the undertow.
"Stop," she said, placing her hands on my shoulders and pushed me back. "I can't. Anymore. I just can't." She began giggling, almost hysterical. Clutching a pillow to her face, she stifled the laughter and rolled over on her side, trembling. I sat up on one elbow and wiped my soaked face on the sheet. I knew I was smiling, I just hoped I didn't appear too smug. She drew me up next to her and rested her head on my chest. Reaching down to take my now partial erection in the grasp of those cool fingers, she sighed and said, "Honey, I owe you an apology. That was magnificent. Truly magnificent."
"Apology? For what?" I laughed.
"For not taking you up on your offer before," she replied. "For assuming you were like most men and were just talking trash to get next to me."
I chuckled, a sound that seemed gruff and inappropriate.
"No," she said, looking up at me. "I mean it."
"Thanks," I managed, but she was already moving down to take my now returning erection into her mouth. She was expert at this too. Taking just the head at first, then more and more until I could feel her tongue rake my testicles and her throat swallowing around me. There was no way I could halt or even slow the climax that rose from the remote ends of my being. It coursed through me, gathering strength and momentum with every miniscule twitch of her tongue or lip. She would pull back, allowing me to exhale, keeping just the head firmly enclosed in her warm wet kiss, then ease back down until I totally disappeared again. She held me there for long pauses and I held my breath until I thought my chest would surely explode.
Then she did it all over again.
I filled my fists with her hair and held her to me. At long last, she decided I had had enough and sent me a message unspoken. Something, some change in posture or movement or some telepathic signal told my straining body release was imminent and I begged for it. I did indeed explode. That massive climax assembled from all the threads of pleasure and gathered in my loins flowed through me and out. It disappeared into her mouth also, without a trace. I yelled her name and called her endearing names and terms of affection that sprang to mind. It was my turn to bounce my butt on the bed and I did. Not voluntarily either, but in overwhelming response to her eager attentions.
I smiled at her wiping her chin with the sheet. She curled up next to me then, resting her head and a hand on my chest. Our breathing slowed and we drifted into sleep.
I awoke sometime later with a full bladder and that uneasy moment of apprehension from being in a strange bed. She slept silently and soundly curled up with her back to me. I eased out of the bed and made my way to the commode. Once there, I closed the door and relieved myself. Again, I was surprised at how pretty the place was. I knew Nora had come directly to the bar after work Friday, so she would have had to clean the place up the night before. My head did a left turn into curiosity. Had she planned to seduce me? It had all appeared so spontaneous, yet somehow contrived. I found this amusing and flattering too. Had she actually prepared both herself and her apartment for the evening? I emerged from the bathroom to the sounds of a coffee maker gurgling.
She placed two cups on the counter and quickly turned away, busying herself with other kitchen items. "Ready for some coffee?" She asked, over her shoulder. "I know I need the caffeine in the mornings just to get going."
She kept her back to me and tried to make small talk, but I don't shift from sleep to public speaking so quickly. Perhaps reading more into my silence than I intended, she added, "I'll get you home soon as I can get dressed and get some coffee in me."
"I'm in no hurry," I replied. This caused her to stop and turn just enough to focus her attention.
"You sure?" She asked.
"Yeah, I'm off 'til Tuesday," I told her. "Besides, I thought maybe we could do something about breakfast. I'm starved." She still didn't turn, but asked over her shoulder, "Are you sure? I don't have a thing in the fridge. Been too busy or tired to shop much lately."
"Sure, I'm serious," I said. "Let me take you to the Inn out by the truck stop, they have a pretty good breakfast."
She turned to me then, her eyes directed to the floor as if to avoid my gaze, her robe open and untied. It dawned on me she didn't want to see my expression. I could suddenly understand why. She looked, quite frankly, like Hell. As if perhaps she'd been on a binge of alcohol and self neglect. For a very brief instant, I wondered where the girl had gone that had shared that bed and passion with me. Her hair was rough and unkempt, her skin too pale and drawn. Her still pretty face had lines around her eyes and the corners of her mouth I hadn't noticed before, the kind of lines that are sketched by laughter and caring. She finally allowed her eyes to rise to mine and before I could hide it, she took in my expression. I managed a crooked smile and said, "You might want to put some clothes on."
She smiled briefly then brightened and dashed off to her bedroom. I sipped the bitter brew and wondered what the hell was going on. It wasn't the first time a morning after had gone south on me, but there was some mystery here I was missing. I didn't know what the puzzle was supposed to be so how did I know which pieces were missing. All I really did know was that some were indeed AWOL.
She returned some scant minutes later attired in baggy shorts and a tight top and dressed ever so much like a working girl inept at hiding her occupation. For some reason, it looked fine on her. I stared for a moment wondering if she'd found a way to flush a decade or so down the drain like so much tissue paper. We waltzed out the door and into her car carrying a still steaming mug to share during the drive and headed for the meal. She put her shoes on in the car while I drove. The classic rock station that had followed us home so appropriately the night before was now too loud and tasteless. We didn't speak until we were inside the restaurant, ordering. I chalked the silence up to caffeine withdrawals and used it to collect my thoughts. I felt as though I needed to reassure her about my flexibility where relationships are concerned. I certainly didn't want to own or be owned, had no desire to stalk or demand, and quite frankly, though I was rather appreciative of her passion and fervent pursuit of same, I didn't want to press the issue of future arrangements.
We ate in much the same silence. I tried a few times to engage her in light conversation and she remained pleasant but withdrawn, contributing nothing beyond a few polite responses. Finally, after numerous coffee refills and a plate of biscuits and gravy, she took a deep breath and began to tell me her story.
Born an only child to a mature couple, she had vague but bright memories of her early childhood. Her parents died when she was eight, and the next several years were spent in a series of foster homes. As soon has her body began to mature, she attracted the attentions of men all around her and some were not gentlemen. She learned a lot about sex, but more importantly, she learned how to use their own desires to manipulate those that wanted her. She had no qualms about taking things from them and making them do things they didn't want to do. After she caused the breakup of one of the foster families, and the subsequent arrest of the man who had used her, she was placed in the care of a woman with a reputation of handling trouble cases. She earned the confidence of this caregiver, and later gave her grudging respect to the first adult since her natural mother to earn it. This woman, she said, was a witch.
When she said that, she looked at me with a raised brow as if anticipating a rebuttal but I just nodded and sipped my cooling coffee, so when none came she continued.
Not what most people think of when the term is used, a genuine witch, she tells me, is one with the earth, in an almost Zen sense. Attuned to the life all around, the very essences that power and define and flow through the living planet and the inhabitants thereof. I grinned here, thinking, "Use the Force, Luke," but sipped more coffee rather than speak. She told me that humans can't ever achieve total power over nature simply because they're part of it. That people who try can find what their real power is, and sometimes your power comes to you without you realizing it. Much as a child with a fondness for animals becomes a veterinarian and during study and work develops a healing power or an ability to commune with the beasts she treats. She told me this adopted mom had way with kids, had indeed turned many of them around to be outstanding citizens, and until the day she was buried had so many of them keep in touch with continued news of their success.
Our waitress showed up with the refill pot, and she took a breather at this point. She stared down at the table when we were alone again and told me in lowered tones about her own power. It was her native ability to appear, for however briefly, as someone's very heart's desire. The one creature he could not live without and simply must possess at any cost. Learning to control this had caused her some problems in the past, and having to deal with it hadn't proved easy either. She managed to get through school by being a frump and a loner, spending her time reading and studying. The times she turned on the charm, literally in her case, wound up in disaster usually as soon as the charm wore off and she appeared natural and plain.
Finally learning to control it, she began to use her ability on men, sometimes vindictive, other times playful, still other times from sheer loneliness. She confessed then that she had used the charm on me the night before in the bar. She told me it was intentional and considered after much thought. We had been friends for all this time and except for the flirtatious banter, I hadn't tried anything with her. Even those nights I had poured her home and she would have been unable (or unwilling) to resist, I had been a gentleman and a friend. Over time, she said, this grudging respect had become appreciation and eventually affection.
She reached across the table to take my hands in hers. She began to assure me that she wasn't making any demands and didn't expect anything, just letting me see the reality of the situation.
We were interrupted again by our waitress who deftly filled our cups and placed the check face down on the table between us, all in one smooth flowing motion. As soon as she turned, Nora continued, "And then again this morning, when you wanted to take me out and it worked again, I could see it on your face. It happened without my doing it. After last night..."
I interrupted her with an index finger to her lips.
"I know you have the power," I said, "I've seen you use it many times. To be honest though, you didn't need to with me, I've always found you attractive. I just didn't have any idea how... fine you'd be. I always did sense a connection with you, but just figured we were doomed to stay just friends." I found myself making little quotes in the air with my fingers.
We both found that amusing for some reason and shared a giggle. "See," she said. "You make me laugh." The way she said it made it sound like the highest praise a man could aspire to.
"Nora, my witch, what say we explore this thing, this power of yours some more. Maybe I can find a power to use with you."
Her eyes brimmed and her cheeks reddened and again she took on the aspect I had glimpsed before as the miles slipped away. She smiled and squeezed my hand. "Let's go home, " she whispered.