Nicer Wine By D.I. Jolly
Dominic dropped himself down at the bar and considered his surroundings. It wasn’t a bad place, certainly not the dodgiest drinking hole he’d ever been in, but a far cry from the posh champagne bars he was used to. The barmaid was a tired-looking girl, probably in her mid-20s after a shower, but in that moment could have been anything between 19 and 47.
“What can I get ya?”
“What’s your house wine?”
“Red… Mer-lot, I think.”
Dominic smiled nervously at the mispronunciation but decided to choose life, and said.
“Got anything nicer?”
“I’ll have a beer then.”
The barmaid made a face which could easily have been a smile, or threat, so he tipped her double and found a free table. Despite it all, he actually kind of liked the place, people sat in small groups talking, drinking and laughing, the air was thick with smoke and despite the grime and potentially hostile atmosphere, everyone seemed to be having a really good time. Even the music, which was more aggressive than what he was used to, had an inclusive air to it. Sex, drugs and rock and roll for everyone!
In his usual drinking houses people didn’t laugh together, but at the expense of others. They didn’t talk, they whispered conspiratorially, and while everything was perfect and pristine, it was not to be touched. Everything was cold and while beautiful it was all repulsive. You weren’t supposed to be comfortable; you weren’t welcome, you were just supposed to pretend you were, in the hope that you could fool everyone else who was also pretending.
So, as Dominic sat at a slightly wonky table, drinking a perfectly ordinary beer, being the odd one out sitting alone not talking to anyone, he felt more accepted an included than he had in years. And then she appeared. The reason why he’d come, the light that had guided him to that particular bar. Geraldine. He’d seen her at a stag party of one of his best school friends who he hated. She had sung Nina Simone in a strip club that they’d graced with their presence, and he’d fallen in love with her voice. She had skin the colour of coffee and a voice that shook the earth, and like a schoolboy in love with his teacher, he grinned and giggled at the very sight of her. She didn’t own the stage the moment she walked on, she didn’t radiate sex or power, but there was a spark, a twinkle in her eye that he’d noticed the first night and could see again now. She knew how talented she was and so did he.
She tapped the microphone getting the attention of maybe half the drinkers, then instead of bursting into song, she filled the room with a hot seductive hum. Which got the attention of every soul in the room. Her voice melted hearts and wet appetites and Dominic worried that he might audibly moan with pleasure as she sang. He wanted her, everyone in the room wanted her, and when she was done the silence was louder than any applause. Now she owned the stage, standing like a Goddess warrior queen among lowly mortals.
When he could think again Dominic wondered why she was still in bars and not conquering the world, and as he’d planned to bribe his way into meeting her, it was the first thing he wanted to ask when he was let into the supply closet that was her dressing room. The owner had told him he’d have five minutes and if she screamed, he wouldn’t just be thrown out, but down the street and over a bridge into the river. She looked up at him and smiled a cold hard smile, which he recognised, it was the same one most of the women he knew wore. It said ‘look but don’t touch’, ‘admire but know that I’m not for you’. A smile that put him back in the prickly bars of the wealthy, where no one belonged really.
“Hello, how may I help you?”
“Oh, oh… I just wanted to tell you that I’ve seen you sing twice now and I adore your voice.”
She blinked at him, as if to say, I know, but her smile warmed.
“Adore my voice, why thank you” she rose and glided towards him, her hand outstretched. “And who might you be?”
Nervously he took her hand and steeling himself gently kissed it.
“My name is Dominic ma’am, Dominic Clearwater of the Northern City Clearwater’s.”
She blushed, which made his knees visibly shake, and then she giggled.
“Very nice to meet you Dominic Clearwater of the Northern City Clearwater’s. But surely you didn’t come all the way down here just for little old me?”
Eager to please his voice came out fast and innocent.
“No, no I did. I saw you at … Ummm… a different club, and heard you sing and I just had to see you again so started calling around and found out about tonight and came down. I… I wanted to ask you… something.”
As he’d spoken, she’d taken a couple very small but deliberate steps closer , and placed a gentle hand on his cheek, which cleared his mind of all thought. She drew his face down so that she could look into his eyes and said.
“Tell me you adore me.”
And he did.
“Tell me again.”
And he did.
“Tell me, you worship me.”
And he did.
“Now tell me that you love me.”
“I love you, I love you … I love you.”
She pulled his face down a little closer and kissed him, and for the first time in his life, he understood why wars were waged over the love of a beautiful woman. He understood why passion was described as an earthquake. His whole life was that moment and nothing before it or after it mattered. It was him and her, the universe be damned!
As she pulled away he thought he could see a light trailing after her, a new shine that made her even more lovely, but the thought vanished quickly. He stood a moment longer wondering why he was there, and then seeing her again remembered briefly but forgot, apologised and left. The bar was empty as he stumbled through it and the barmaid might have been laughing at him but it didn’t seem to matter. His driver was still waiting, and by the time he’d gotten home, he was asleep. In the morning he woke up with the worst hangover he’d ever had, and over some strong coffee and boiled eggs decided that he must have had the best night of his life, if only he could remember it.