Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
“Mike-eeee!” I sang, greeting my favorite bartender on his Thursday night shift. It was close to midnight at the Matador, with just a few customers, and I had my choice of seats at the long bar.
“How is La Rosa Roja, tonight? Can I stir you a martini?”
“The Red Rose is in the mood for cognac, thank you very much, my dear. Make it a Hennessy. It’s time to put Thursday night to bed.”
Mike mounted the step stool for the top shelf, and I picked a bar stool that put me one seat away from another customer, the lone brother at the bar. Like a moth to a flame, I was always up for introducing myself to the solo black man in the room. Sitting down, I nodded hello when he peeled his eyes from the sports highlights on the screen. A handsome face and easy smile returned the greeting from under the brim of a black ball cap. My curiosity piqued, I turned my attention to the screen, collecting details for the inevitable conversation. Baseball scores were rolling. The season was over, and the playoffs had started. Mike set down a coaster, and covered it with a snifter holding the expected deep pour of my favorite brown liquor.
“Vicki Marie—do you know, Andre?”
The Matador bartenders adored me, and this direct introduction was cocktail-code for, “man of quality.” A nod from Mike was quite frankly unprecedented.
“Pleased to meet you. Who’s your team?”
“Boston. Sorry, I’m not a Mariner fan.”
“And what makes you think I’m not a Yankee Girl?” I caught the flinch in his jaw. I knew that a Red Sox man was most likely a fanatic, as well as a bloodthirsty rival of the New York team.
“Well, then this bar isn’t big enough for the two of us,” he said, and I laughed at his predictable slam.
By this time, I was reading The New York Times sports page every morning. I was tuned into the commentary, I checked the scores, and I followed the drama of whichever playoffs were unfolding. I focused exclusively on pro-teams—except for USC football, where Lamar’s son played. I didn’t need to know much, but I always knew enough to keep a conversation on track. My daily study was good for business, good for making bar friends, and crossed over perfectly as small talk suited for screening potential dates.
I learned that Andre was indeed a fanatic Red Sox fan, and until recently, a season ticket holder at Fenway Park. He was divorced with a pre-teen daughter, and she had stayed in Boston with her mom. He’d worked as an architect for more than thirty years, and in Seattle he landed at NBBJ, an international firm that was aggressively expanding into India and China. I had met NBBJ’s Vice President of Asian Markets in Las Vegas when I had pitched my art at HOTEL-Expo in April, so I was particularly up-to-date with the company’s strategic priorities. Andre was also pretty damn funny. In only a few minutes, he had me laughing out loud.
“Your VP’s wife is a wild child,” I told him, remembering our time on the dance floor at Tao, the it-spot at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.
“Shirley has not a single molecule of inhibition in her body,” he said, knowing exactly what I was talking about. “Once she found out I used to be a singer, she drafted me as her personal jukebox at every company party. I’m merely the backup talent for her rock and roll dance persona. I consider it job security. Bill would lose his wife if he fired me.”
I adored my younger lovers, but older men intrigued me. There’s an immediate affinity that’s possible when socializing with a peer, when the common markers of history are shared, like music, politics, and world events. But my lifestyle was young, and I had gotten used to the fact that I was always the oldest person in the room. Unlike most of the people in my social circle, I actually remembered where I was when JFK was shot. As a baby boomer Black American, Andre would have grown up in a home with a Kennedy portrait on the wall.
“So, what brings you to the Matador so late on a Thursday night?”
“Clearly, I was looking for a man to buy me a drink.” He laughed, while I played it straight. “It’s a blonde thing.”
“Oh, aren’t you all that!” He laughed through his words. “Well, you found him, La Rosa Roja. And if you keep making me laugh, I’m going to buy you another.” He’d caught Mike’s pet name for me. I don’t why, but that struck me as terribly sweet.
“Would you like to go dancing right now?” he asked.
I had just explained my habit of stopping in for a nightcap on Thursdays, after a night of salsa at the Century Ballroom. I was enjoying the second drink, and there was no way I was getting back into my car, or his, and rolling back into town for a last call dance. I said as much.
“No—right here—there’s a dance bar down the street. We can walk!”
Talk about new to the neighborhood. There was no place to dance in West Seattle. But he was adamant, so I let him have his way.
“OK, OK, Mister Red Sox Man! Show me a place to dance on the next block, and the blonde buys the next round.”
Talarico’s had opened up several months earlier, a Napolese pizza joint, taking over West Seattle’s vintage Choy Suey Restaurant. It was my first time in the remodeled space. There was a u-shaped bar in the center, tables and booths on three sides—and a dance floor in the back. I was stunned. Andre excused himself for a quick conference with the DJ.
“You’re enjoying being right just entirely too much,” I told him when he skipped back to the bar.
“And you’re going to have to learn that I don’t say anything I don’t know to be true.”
“Now listen up, young lady.” He held his hand up to emphasize the new track, and I recognized the prelude; a classic Bee Gee’s song filled the room. “This song’s for you!” He extended his arm, pointing a finger at my heart, as he backed into the center of the floor. He belted out the first verses of “More Than A Woman,” singing into my eyes, like he meant every word.
He sang like a nightingale, and performed like a star. When the chorus hit, he took my hand and brought me from the bar to the floor. He cradled me in a closed embrace, and led a traveling disco-waltz, his voice strong and clear, and his eyes never leaving mine. I floated in the glow of that moment, folded firmly into his arms, entranced by the music of his voice, and enchanted by the ridiculous romance of that pop hit from the seventies.
After the fade-out, I applauded, and he took a shallow bow. I looked into his eyes, my whole body bursting with gratitude. I recognized the shift at that moment. Pandora’s box hadn’t just been dusted off. The latch had come loose.
TOMORROW: Chapter 55
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.