When the door to the Cary Brothers’ bar swung open, Maxwell’s heart almost leaped from his chest. He’d been standing behind the counter since the bar opened at five, waiting for the promise of romance.
The figure who entered was female, but when she walked into the open, he saw it was Pam Abel, and his heart sunk.
No sooner, another emotion crawled to the surface—resentment.
Pam looked at him, and he bet she had not a clue what was happening. She nudged her head forward in acknowledgment and wandered to her favorite spot in the corner.
She sat at the same spot every time she’d come to the bar. If the table was taken, she’d find something close to it—a corner seat, and she’d keep her eye on the table for the rest of the night. If it became free at any time, she’d dive for it. There was nothing special about the corner seat, but Pam had weirdness about her.
Thinking about the predicament in which he was involved, he pondered if he should confront Pam about last year. Would she even remember? She’d probably think it odd, like his brother Sam did, that he’d taken her palm and tea reading seriously.
But he couldn’t get over it. Pam had known, detail for detail, his every desire in a woman, and she had given him the exact date of September twentieth though not the time that she’d arrive.
Time was running out. In about two hours, it would be midnight, and the date would change.
Pam ordered her tea from his brother, and went about opening her books. She’d taken to studying at the bar since the library shut down two months ago for renovation. The sign had said they’d hired a new librarian, but there was no telling when it would open, again.
“You still waiting?” Sam asked, approaching him.
Max sighed, and faced him, frustrated.
“You’re serious,” his big brother said, eyeing him as he mixed the woman’s tea. “Dude, it’s a stupid psychic reading.”
“I don’t like my emotions getting messed with,” he said.
“You asked her for the reading,” he said, putting down the kettle and dousing the teabag in the mug.
Max rolled his eyes. “I’m stupid, I know.”
“You want me to remind her?”
“No, god, no,” he said, waving his brother off.
Sam disappeared with Pam’s tea.
The bar slipped into routine. The same customers—the same orders. The big screen television showed a hockey game, and Tammy flirted with all the men at the pool table.
When she saw Max watching her, she gave him a little smile, and even though he turned his back, she slithered over to press her upper body over the counter.
“Hey, Max,” she said.
She was wasted, as was her routine.
“You having a good night, Tammy?”
“I’m having a great night,” she said, behaving like a child who couldn’t sit still. “I see you’re not.”
Max rolled his eyes and cleaned the mugs, wiping them until the spots of water disappeared and they looked anew. It was unnecessary wiping, but it was something to do rather than watch the door, or even deal with Tammy.
Then he considered Tammy. Fresh out of college, and overly tanned, in her daisy dukes, crop top and boots. He’d been there before. He’d been there plenty of times, with Tammy, and every generic girl like her. He was bored. Sam said he had a type—Tammy, but he refuted it. Maybe once he lived for these party girls, but he’d be turning thirty five in December. He needed someone stable, and serious.
“You wanna dance?” Tammy asked.
“I’m gonna have to take a rain check,” he told her, and then glanced up to the door when it opened. His heart pounded. He needed to stop doing that. Two men entered the bar and approached the counter—definitely not who he was looking for.
“What can I get you?” He asked them, since Sam was busy on the other side.
The men gave their orders, and the door opened, and again his eyes flew to it. Nope. Not what he was waiting for. He turned his back to fill the orders, and returned with two eight pint mugs.
“You know, you been really watching that door,” Tammy observed. “You waiting for somebody?”
“No one you need to worry your pretty blonde head about,” he said.
He walked away from her, hearing her sigh, before walking off.
Max, try as he might, could not help but jump each time the door creaked. He glanced to the clock, too. It was twenty five minutes to midnight.
When he left the back room and returned to the counter, Pam was sitting at the bar. She looked tired, her face strained.
“I’m paying my tab,” she said with a smile.
“Yep, I am studied out,” she said.
“What are you studying for?”
“Oh, my spiritual counselling certificate,” she admitted, tapping her hardcover book.
“You’re no longer into palm and tea reading,” he said as a subtle jab.
“Oh, I still do readings.” Pam’s eyes widened as she accepted the receipt Max placed before her.
“Even when you’re wrong,” he said, more than a little peeved, as his brother joined him at the counter.
Sam watched him from the corner of his eyes, while he handled the other customers.
“Wrong,” Pam said, feigning surprise.
“I guess you don’t remember all the bullshit you told me.”
Pam looked taken back by his anger. He could see she was struggling to understand or remember.
“You really can’t recall,” he said, no longer holding back. “Last year, you bullshitted me about how on September twentieth, the woman for me would walk into my life.”
Pam watched him, understanding. “I didn’t realize you’d cared. You laughed and walked off.”
“Yeah, it was kind of stupid.”
Pam considered. “You know, I still stand by that.”
“Yeah, you said September twentieth. Look at the clock. You’re full of it.”
“Whoa there,” Sam said, coming over after collecting the cash from the customers. “Dude, what are you doing?”
“Making sure Pam doesn’t scam anyone else. Is that what the certificate is for—more bullshitting?”
Pam looked hurt. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Max.”
“Yeah, don’t bother,” he said, brushing Sam’s hands off and turning his back.
The door creaked again. This time, his heart didn’t jump. He had gotten it off his chest, everything he needed to say. He was mad at Pam, but at himself for indulging in the nonsense.
“Can I help you?” Sam asked.
“I’m just checking out the neighborhood. I was told this is a good place to start. I’m new in town, arrived an hour ago. I’m the new librarian.”
“Oh,” Sam said, and faced him. “Max, meet the town’s new librarian.”
Max had spun around at the sound of her voice, and he faced off with his brother, seeing the look of knowing in his eyes. Pam, too, had a look of pleasure on her face.
“Hi, I’m Max,” he said and reached out his hand.
“Lauryn,” she said, shaking his hand.
Her smile was electric. And he smiled back, hearing the clock tick as it struck midnight.
The end cKm2017