Ten minutes until last call, and Mina was still at the bar, mixing drinks and moving her hips seductively to the music to release pheromones and inducing the men at the bar to drink more, thus spending more. I was taking a look at the shelves seeing what needed to be restocked at closing time trying not to pay attention to the stranger sitting in the same corner as the night before. It was enough to have his clean scent wafting toward me over the smell of fresh cigarette smoke and the mixing of the several chemicals involved in perfumes and colognes.
“Hey girl, can ya get me two fifths of Jack from the back?” Mina said not looking up as she poured a healthy serving of Vodka over orange juice.
“Here ya go sweetie,” she said, winking and pushing the drink toward her customer, a half-inebriated, balding man.
“Yeah, I'll get you after I finish inventorying the front,” I answered lining shot glasses on the bottom shelf below the multi-colored bottles of liquor. .
As I got closer to Mina, I crinkled my nose at her overuse of three dollar bathroom perfume. The burnt potpourri smell was only enhanced further by the sweaty arousal of the men that stood sentinel at the bar watching Mina move.
“Can you cover me at closing tonight?” Mina said flicking her black hair over her shoulder and looking at me.
“Don't I always?” I said.
I took a break from restocking the bar for a moment and listened to Johnny Cash's “Ring of Fire” over the jukebox. My eyes kept moving across the floor searching out the stranger in his dark corner. The small, votive candle reflected brokenly off his glass of untouched Scotch and threw his face into continual shadows. I was curious as to why I could smell his scent so keenly above all the stronger odors in the bar.
After last call, Mina and I finished restocking behind the bar before she grabbed her purse, spritzed herself with that same perfume and walked out the back to the employee parking lot.
“Be careful,” I called through the back knowing she wouldn't hear me.
The stranger was still sitting at his table, his eyes cast in shadows. Rather than speak to him, I grabbed a bar rag and began the final night's clean up beginning with wiping down the bar counter. Creedance Clearwater Revival's “Full Moon Rising” played through the house sound system hooked up to the jukebox. Except for the stranger, tonight was just like any other night. I spritzed the counter with sanitizer and rubbed at a particularly sticky spot where someone had placed a piece of lemon. I caught the stranger moving in my peripheral vision even before the I heard the scrape of his chair across the concrete floor.
I heard the tinkle of ice in his tumbler, and looked up and watched him look at the glass. Oh yeah, he was tall. Except for a small click across the floor, he moved almost soundlessly across the floor toward the counter. I looked back down and continued wiping at the counter thinking that he was leaving his glass and leaving.
“What's a little girl like you working so late?” said a deep, accented voice.
The spike of his scent so close behind me and the dark timbre of his voice startled me. I gasped and heard the splat of the bar rag hit the floor near my feet. I felt him lean behind me and pick up the damp rag and placing it on he counter. My pulse began to race and I fought to keep my breathing even as I turned around to face him and nearly collided into his chest. I stood silent as I looked up from his chest to wide-set shoulders into his eyes.
One eye liquid, dark amber, and the other black coal. That was the color of his eyes. Framed by sooty, dark lashes and emotionless. I took a soothing breath of his clean scent trying to calm my heart.
“Um, can I help you?” I asked glad that my voice was at least strong. I closed my eyes mentally knocking myself for the thick, Southern accent.
He didn't answer, just continued looking at me. He took one step toward me, and I took one step back until my back was up against the liquor cabinet behind the bar. We continued looking at each other. My eyes met his. Neither of us moved. Breaths mingled in the air. Finally, his hand moved, and my breathing hitched. I watched in slow motion while his hand came around the back of my head and pulled my hair loose from its messy ponytail.
“Don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you,” he said running his fingers through the hair that sat on my shoulder.
All I could whisper was, “What's your name?”