He spied her across the empty bar much too close to closing time. Not for any particularly attractive attribute but for the closed off expression and the empty drink in her hand. She was staring at the bottom of the glass like it held all the answers of the universe and the sigh on her lips told him exactly what he needed to do. He was going to help her tonight, if he could. A woman who looked like that should never have that much sadness in her eyes.
He tossed back the last of his drink and strode across the bar, opening his mouth as he approached her, ready to do the impossible.
"Sorry honey, tonight is not a good night to hit on me."
He couldn’t help but smile but she didn’t see it, never looking up from her empty glass. "Is it a good night to keep you company?"
She did look up, then, staring at him with blurry curiosity. Then she shrugged and turned back to her crystal ball. "It's your decision."
"Actually it's yours." He smirked.
He really looked at her features when she looked up at him, trying to read his intentions. Her face was round and small, the freckles on her nose accentuated without makeup. Her auburn hair was piled atop her head in a messy bun and for a moment he wondered what it would be like to drag the ponytail from her head and watch those curly locks tumble over her shoulders. Instead he waited with a kind smile and a patient stance. Finally, she waved at the empty stool beside her. "Go ahead."
His smile grew wider as he took his seat. "So what's"
"Nuh uh, pretty boy.” Her head snapped up so quickly he jumped. “You can keep me company but I didn't say you could talk to me."
He raised his hands in surrender. "Alright." He waived the bartender down. "Hey Mindy, can you get the lady another drink? On me."
She sighed. "Don't do that."
"Try and charm me with alcohol." She smirked, convinced she was on to his game.
He chuckled as he watched Mindy quickly dispense something dark and rich into a small glass and pass it over. "I've never heard it described that way before."
"Why did you come over here?" He paused to look at her, confusion and amusement written all over his face. "If you're thinking that I'm going home with you"
"No, no. I don't know.” He shrugged, he couldn’t believe he was about to tell her the truth. Actually, yes he could. “You just look like you need someone tonight."
"Well I don't." She took a long sip, doing her best not to cough as she inhaled a little too quickly.
"Then why are you here?"
She stared him down defiantly. "The liquor store was closed."
He adjusted himself, leaning in closer, that same self-satisfied smirk she’d just had plastered onto his face. "See, I think you just didn't want to be alone."
"Fine. I don't…" she licked her lips, unable to meet his eyes "I came home to an empty apartment and for once I couldn't brush it off." She shook it off and gave him a pointed look. "I'm still not going to sleep with you."
"I never asked you to.” He put on his most serious expression and looked her dead in the eyes. “I meant it, I just want to keep you company."
"Thank you." Their eyes locked and he hoped that she truly believed him. He tried to shake off the warmth that was forming inside; but not completely. Especially when she smiled shyly. "I'm sorry for snapping."
He smiled, leaning over the bar comfortably. "I don't take those things personally."
"How are you so...nice?" He would have laughed if he thought she was joking but she wasn’t. His heart sank.
"A bit of experience.” He admitted as he looked at her sad expression. “I'm sorry for whoever hurt you."
She shrugged, bringing the glass to her lips again. "No need, it's over. I'm moving on."
"Moving on to the next drink, you mean." He scoffed but his eyes widened. Had he just said that out loud?
"You just bought me a drink." Her tone was more scolding than offended; which might have been worse.
"Because I knew you'd want another one but I don't think you need one." What was he saying? Stop!
"You don't know me." He took a quick, calming breath. Okay, he could recover. Maybe.
"You're right but like I said: I've been there."
She released a defeated sigh and took another sip – a smaller one this time. "How do you get over it?"
"Oh you don't." He leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner, revealing the secret of the universe. "But sometimes good companionship and a drink that seems completely unnecessary can make all the difference in the world."
"Do you want to dance?"
What? He stared at her but she was staring right back with pleading but confident eyes. She was serious.
She swallowed, his eyes following the line of her throat. What had he just gotten himself into? "You're right;” she admitted, “I really don't want to be alone tonight. And I know you don't know me and I don't know you but, for tonight, can we pretend like we do?"
He stared at this woman like she held all the answers of the universe and suddenly all he wanted to do was drink from those lips and hear every sad and lovely story she was willing to tell him. Her green eyes never changed, watching him – maybe for a sign that he would run – and he was entranced.
This was crazy. This had not been his intention when he approached her and yet, who would say ‘no’ to her? The sad look in her eyes when he first saw her told him someone had but it wouldn’t be him. Was it crazy to want to know her for more than just pretend? Yes! A voice screamed. Yes, it is entirely crazy to want to get to know this woman but for god’s sake, speak now before she walks away.
Speak! He shook away all thought and smiled.
"The pleasure would be mine."