Our prompts were: Fishing, into the wind, last place, haunt, drivers license, and glass.
The prompt glass, from my M3 writing group. There were several ways to go: a glass cup, window glass, a pair of glasses, someone being transparent as glass, or even someone with a glass eye. But, as usual, we didn’t take the easy way out. The prompt became a character’s last name.
One of the characters, Red Tom, first appeared in a short story based in our Dreaming of Xeres novel called The Infamous Couch Story.
Red Tom himself is based on a real person Orion knew called Red James. At one point in her life, she had just too many people named James in her life, so she renamed them Red James and Black James. As you do. Red James made such an impression on her, going from a long-haired flamboyant young man to the crew cut and three-piece suit wearing gentleman that showed up after many years away, that she keeps dropping him into stories.
RAISE A GLASS
He’d been watching the attractive woman for several minutes. She sat all alone at the bar, surreptitiously tossing glances at a group in the far corner. When they stood and raised a toast, she turned away with tears in her eyes.
“Hey, are you okay? You look really sad.”
She focused hazel eyes on him, tilting her head like he was a specimen in a zoo.
“Could I buy you a drink? Maybe it’ll help you forget whatever’s bothering you.” He signaled the bartender, who checked her driver’s license, took their orders, and left.
He read her name off the license as she put it away. Hmmm, Jennifer Glass, he thought. Pretty name.
“My name’s Tom, but everybody calls me Red Tom.”
She chuckled. “Because of your red hair, I suppose. I’m Jennifer, but everybody calls me Jenni. With an ‘i’.” She dipped her head, indicating her drink. “Thanks for that.”
A gust of laughter from the party in the corner claimed her attention. He followed her glance.
“Friends of yours?”
“They used to be, anyway. This was our favorite haunt.” The woman jutted her chin toward them. “They used to be my best friends. The guy hugging the blond? He was my boyfriend.” She made a noise. “Seems like he’s moved.” She closed her eyes, whispering, “And found someone prettier.”
“I don’t think….” Tom started.
Jenni held up her hand. “Sorry, I wasn’t fishing for compliments.” She shrugged, looking around the bar. “This is the last place I want to be right now, but here I sit watching them have fun without me.” Her shoulders sagged and she huddled over her drink. “They haven’t even acknowledged my presence. It’s like I don’t even exist.”
A tear slid down her cheek. Tom reached over to wipe it away, but she waved him off.
“I see you. Why don’t we get out of here? Find someplace where you can be happy.”
Jenni looked at him blankly for a moment, then sighed. “Yeah, that would be nice.”
She slid off her stool and tossed a shawl over her shoulders.
Glancing over at the party table, Tom shook his head. That guy’s nuts. I can’t believe anyone would dump this beautiful woman for someone else!
As they reached the front door, Tom realized he’d left his jacket on the barstool.
“Sorry, Jenni. I forgot my coat. I’ll just be a moment.”
He returned to his seat, retrieved the forgotten garment, then hurried back toward the door.
Jenni had disappeared.
She must have gone outside. Can’t blame her. I wouldn’t want to keep looking at those supposed friends either.
Shoving through the door, he looked around for Jenni.
She wasn’t on the sidewalk.
He checked down the side street.
He even called her name a few times.
It was like she’d vanished into the wind.
Shaking his head, he walked back into the bar. The least I can do for Jenni is to give her ‘friends’ a piece of my mind for treating her so badly.
Tapping the guy she’d pointed out as her ex-boyfriend on the shoulder, he said, “You should be ashamed of yourselves. Sitting over here partying like this.”
“Do we know you?” the ex- said belligerently.
Tom dismissed the man and spoke directly to the group of friends. “No, but I couldn’t leave without saying anything. How could you all do this to your friend? Ignore her like that? What did she do that was so wrong, other than break up with this loser here? You all made her cry. I tried to cheer her up, but she left.”
He had their total attention now.
One woman narrowed her eyes and asked, “Who?”
“Jenni.” Tom pointed toward the bar.
The woman’s eyes widened. “Jenni…Glass?”
“Yeah,” Tom said through clenched teeth. “You really upset her.”
After a moment, the ex- stood, facing him.
“Man, Jenni’s been dead for five years. We were here one night partying. Jenni’d had too much to drink. She thought she was going to be sick so she went outside. She got hit by a drunk driver. She was killed instantly.” He gestured around the table. “We come here every year on the anniversary of her death and drink a toast to her.”
Tom shook his head. “But…but I just talked to her. At the bar.”
Everyone at the table was openly crying.
Finally, the ex- choked out, “This happens every year. Some guy comes up and says that he saw her watching us and crying. It bothers us that she’s so upset. Even though we can’t see her, we feel like we’re close to her somehow. We just wish we knew how to tell her how much we miss her.”
Glancing over the man’s shoulder, Tom saw Jenni standing at the door, a smile ghosting across her lips. She winked at him and blew a kiss, mouthing, “Thank you.”
Tom put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “I think she knows. Now.”