"You've got that right." I laughed at Tom as he took off his keys to go on his break.
"I'll be back in ten minutes; can you manage?"
"I'm sorry, have we met?"
"Right. Never question your work ethic."
He chuckled and went out the back. I finished cleaning up some glasses just as another group of people appeared at the bar.
"Shots!" One of them announced, like I'm supposed to read his mind.
"What's your poison?"
"Tequila!" He laughed, throwing his arm around a bleary eyed girl who looked like she'd already had far too much.
"You sure? She doesn't look like she's feeling too good."
"Ah she's fine; just give us the damn shots." He put the money on the bar.
"Fine." I laid out the shots and took the money.
"Keep the change."
"Thanks." I rolled my eyes when he turned his back. A whole penny! Imagine my joy.
Everyone was either laughing over drinks, precariously perched on bar stools, or dancing in the small space they called a dance floor. I kept an eye on the drunk girl and the shots guy; she didn't exactly seem capable of making good decisions.
"Three beers please."
"Oh, hey," I smiled. One of the lecturers from the humanities building was a regular here, most of the time with a few other members of different faculties. "Usual?"
"Who's here tonight?" I asked as I got the beers.
"Everyone. Well, when they get here. We're showing the newbie where the best drinking holes are."
"Yeah, psych lecturer. Maybe you know her? MacIntosh?"
"Oh, yeah. We call her Aussie Mac." Why? WHY DID I SAY THAT?
He laughed and clapped his hands.
"That's great. Might use that."
"Keep your source a secret." I said as I handed over the beers.
"Can't make promises," he replied before heading off in to the crowds.
Christ. Just my luck. What, was she stalking me?
"More shots!" The guy was back. "Vodka please."
"Might want to go easy there." I mentioned as I handed them over in exchange for the cash.
"Shut up." He went to join his friends, and that girl. The way she was holding herself was not making me feel any better about her being with him and his friends.
"Well, he was rude." I rolled my eyes and couldn't help but grin at the sound of her voice. I turned to see Alex at the bar. She'd helped her wavy hair in to curls, and was wearing black leather-look skinny jeans and a black tank top. I won't say how good she looks...
"You get used to the idiots."
"Well I shall do my best to not turn in to one of them."
"I doubt you ever could be."
"Oh I don't know. I used to be... less conservative, while I was at University. And I am an Australian, as you so kindly pointed out. Aussie Mac was it?"
I groaned, but couldn't help the grin either. It didn't look like I was in trouble.
"In my defence, I didn't come up with it. But you have to admit, it's catchy." I leaned on the bar.
"I prefer Alex." She smiled, a put down her empty beer bottle in front of me." But I guess I can cope with that."
I turned and got her a beer out of the fridge, and didn't fail to notice her eyes flicking up to my face when I turned around. I covered a smirk and opened the bottle for her. She went for her money.
"On the house."
"Are you sure?"
"It's not a bribe or anything," I laughed at her serious face. "Ask anyone, I can get great grades without bribes. And if I was going to bribe anyone, it wouldn't be with one bottle of beer."
"No problem." I expected her to leave, but she stayed. She hadn't given me her analysing look yet. She ran her hand through her hair, and took a gulp from the bottle.
"So this is the second job?"
"This is it."
"How do you do it?"
"Work in a place like this? I mean, it's great for having fun but... it's so different from the book shop."
"It's not so bad. Besides, I tend to find that it gives me the opportunity to practice the counselling side of psych."
"Ah, so it's market research?"
"Something like that." I chuckled.
"Do you always wear black?" She blurted out, and then looked embarrassed, as though she hadn't meant to say it. "Sorry. I'm trying not to analyse you but..." She shrugged.
"I like the way I look in black. There's no dark, deep meaning behind it. It just suits me. But this is just my uniform. I just... Black goes with everything. And it makes everyone a little bit... hotter." And on no account did I allow myself a quick perusal of her body in her black outfit. Okay... maybe just a little. She shifted and glanced down, giving an embarrassed laugh.
"I guess I have no right to judge that tonight."
"Well it suits you. You should wear it more often."
"Hmmm. Well you should wear that lipstick more often." She seemed to be startled that she'd said that too, and I began to suspect that she'd had more to drink than just two beers.
"Now who's making inappropriate remarks?" I smirked.
"Women can compliment each other's clothes and make-up." She tried to play it off.
"Yeah, of course, they totally can." I smirked. She sighed.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the shots guy stand, and begin to escort the drunk girl out, on her own.
"Hey, are you working or flirting?" Tom appeared behind me.
"Perfect timing." I threw the keys at him. "I've got to take care of something." I turned to Alex. "Sorry."
"Where are you-?" They both began, but I was already hurrying across the floor. I didn't trust that guy one bit, and it wouldn't be the first time... It had started to rain, and I hurried around the building, searching for any sign of the pair.
"N-n-no. Please..." Girl against the wall, guy pressing in to her, holding her there...
"Oi! Get off of her!"
"You? Why don't you fuck off back behind the bar?"
"Not until you let her go."
"What, you want to join me and my girlfriend or something?"
"In your dreams ass hole." The rain was really coming down now, and I could see he wasn't too happy. He started towards me.
"Look, piss off, or else..."
He reached out to shove me, and I caught his wrist, and swung him around so that he collided with the brick wall. He made an 'ungh' noise, and there was a crunching noise that sounded like his nose breaking. Then he was howling on the floor.
"Come on," I wrapped my arm around the girl, to help her stand. "Let's get you out of the rain." I told our bouncers to go get the guy and call the police, and helped the girl back inside.
"You're soaked through! And who is this?" Tom asked as I got her behind the bar. Alex was gone, probably back to her friends, but I hadn't got time to think about that now.
"A guy got her drunk and tried to take advantage outside. It's raining."
"Shit. What happened?"
"I broke his nose, I think. David and Louis have him and they're calling the cops. Can we just get her warm? And hopefully a little more sober?"
We put her in the back room, and Tom stayed with her while I went to check if the police were on their way. The guy had definitely got a broken nose, but David had got him holed up in security and wasn't sympathetic to him at all. I grabbed a towel and attempted to dry my hair behind the bar, before the police showed up.
"You're going to give me a heart attack." I continued towelling my hair, aware that Alex was watching me. "Some ass hole tried to... he'd been getting her wasted and when I saw them leaving I couldn't shake the feeling that he was bad news, and I was right."
"Is she alright?"
"Yeah. She's in the back. He however, is not."
"What did you do?"
"Broke his nose." I said through gritted teeth. "He deserved a whole lot worse."
"But you're okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little wet and cold. I mean, it is October." I ran my hand through my damp hair, pushing it out of my face and facing her.
"I thought black made everything hotter?" She raised her eyebrow and grinned at me. I glanced down at my skin tight black dress, and shrugged.
"Guess there's not enough of it for that. Bar uniforms; never the most practical. And to think, any other night I'd have been in my jeans."
"But not tonight?"
"Well apparently I'm supposed to wear this lack of material all the time, but Tom lets me get away with normal clothes unless it's a Friday."
"Friday is when the owner pops buy to check on us. And he only really does it once a month, but it pays to be prepared. Literally."
"I see." I shivered a little, not dry and not really feeling very warm. "Are you okay? Do you want to borrow my jacket?"
"What jacket?" I surveyed her bare, toned arms.
"It's leather; it's at our table."
"Oh, no... thanks. I've got a cardigan in the back, I just... I'm waiting for the police."
"You'll catch a cold." She frowned, and pointed a stern 'wait there' finger at me. And then she vanished and I was left speechless, for once. I poured myself a glass of scotch, for warmth, and rubbed my arms. And then she was back, with the jacket.
The rest of my sentence couldn't follow, so I closed my mouth and accepted it. The leather was cool, but I did feel warmer with my arms covered.
"Police are here." Louis appeared and gestured towards the door. "They want to see you and the girl."
"She's in the back. I don't want her near that creep."
"Okay. I'll send them through."
He went to find them, and I glanced at Alex.
"Thanks for the jacket... I'll give it back as soon as the police-"
"-that's fine. Don't worry." She squeezed my arm, and headed off again.
The police only really needed us both to tell them what had happened. The girl, Katie, wasn't really much sober, so they said they'd like to speak to her again tomorrow. But the guy was heading for a cell for the night, and I was damn pleased. When the police had finished, Tom said that he and the other staff could work without me, so I could go home. I had my cardigan, a heavy black wool one that went to my knees, so I went in search of Alex to return her jacket.
"Hi." I smiled at her. She was sitting with the other lecturers, and I immediately felt like I should behave myself. She'd been so good to me tonight; I didn't really feel like winding her up with banter, like usual.
"Hey, how'd it go?" She asked.
"Good. Just came to give you this back." I handed over the jacket. "And say thanks, again."
"No problem. Are you going home?" She noticed my bag hanging from my shoulder.
"Yeah. Can't really carry on working in a damp dress. So uh, thanks, and I'll see you around, I guess."
I made it half way across the floor before she caught up with me.
"At least let me make sure you get a taxi or something."
"I can take care of myself."
"I can see that but..." She stopped me as we got to the outside door. "That doesn't mean you're fine after everything tonight."
I studied her intently.
"You think I'm damaged by what I saw? Or that I'm going to have a breakdown?" She looked around exasperated. "I'm fine, really. I've handled and seen worse."
"Is that how you got this?" She murmured, reaching up to trail her fingers gently across the scar that cut through my left eyebrow, where it thinned to a point. I held my breath until her fingers left my skin, and then pushed her away, gently.
"I've got to go. Thanks again, for tonight." And then I stepped outside and closed the door.