The night was cold and the air was crisp. It was that beautiful time of year when the season is slowly shifting from fall to winter. The leaves remain colorful but the air has a bite to it, teasing those in its midst that winter is not far. She checked her hair in the mirror, tousling is just so to ensure she looked perfectly unkempt. She was hoping nobody could tell she had spent a fair amount of time in front of the mirror, checking her mascara and making sure she had enough shine on her lips but not too much. She took a deep breath before she stepped out of the car, reminding herself she was here to be on her own. Her expectations were low. She was not wanting to meet someone. She was wanting to sit on her own in a place where nobody knew her and figure out who she was. She had escaped the monotony of her small town for the weekend to write but had found herself simply frustrated and blocked just with new scenery around her.
“Go out and have a drink or two,” a friend had recommended. “Watch the people around you. See if they inspire you.” She resisted. It was easier to sit at her rental in her sweats but her friend was right. She needed inspiration. She wasn’t finding it within herself.
She adjusted her white sweater, ensuring it sat just right off the side of her shoulder, exposing a small tattoo. She wore her minimalist tattoos proudly. They were mementos. They were stories she wore on her body that told of the battles she had faced but conquered.
One more deep breath, a quick swipe of chapstick, and she stepped outside of the car. She stared at the building and looked around at the parking lot. There were a fair amount of cars, meaning there would be at least a small group of people she could silently take mental notes on and write about later. You’re going in to be inspired, she thought to herself. If she didn’t have the expectation of meeting someone, she couldn’t be disappointed when she went home with nothing more than a story to write about and a fading buzz from the rosé.
She positioned herself at the bar. She knew the best way to be alone in public. Don’t sit at a table if you can help it. The bar is better. At the bar, you might get lucky with a bartender that wants to chat. There’s a mystery about someone sitting by themselves at the bar. If anyone looked her way, maybe they’d wonder if she was waiting on someone. They might wonder if she had been stood up. They might wonder if she was there alone and why. Or they didn’t give a shit and she was thinking people care far more about her than they actually do.
“I’ll have a glass of the rosé, please,” she softly said as she smiled at the kind bartender. The glass was poured and she raised the glass to her lips. As she took her first sip, her eyes wandered to a group of young women at the end of the bar. What were their stories? She began to wonder about them, creating a script in her mind.
Shortly after her first sip, she excused herself to the restroom, asking the bartender to keep an eye on her jacket and full glass of wine. The bartender nodded and she grabbed her purse, walking into the bathroom to check her appearance. It was never couples that made her feel lonelier; it was groups of friends. She missed hers and reminded herself that this was her adventure and right now she had to go about it alone. She looked at herself in the mirror, wiping the small mascara flakes from her cheeks, adjusting her sweater, and deeming herself “good enough” to return to the bar.
As she turned the corner, she saw him. He was sitting two seats down from the chair her jacket was resting on. He was charming, as the bartender giggled and leaned across the bar to speak with him. He hadn’t the slightest clue how enamored the bartender was with him. His smile was soft yet genuine. He was tall, she could tell. His presence was commanding. She found herself wanting to know his name, his story, who he was before he walked into that wine bar and who he wanted to be once he left. You’re here to be by yourself. You’re here to write, she had to remind herself. Don’t be distracted. Maybe she didn’t want to indulge him with attention but that didn’t mean she couldn’t attract his. She tossed her shoulders back and walked to her seat at the bar, offering him a brief look and soft smile before she faced her glass.
He was intrigued. Her hair was pulled back, messily but beautifully. She was dressed comfortably but the way her sweater fell off her shoulder and her jeans hugged her hips were enticing to him. Trying not to stare, he carefully shifted in his seat so he could see her just perfectly out of the corner of his eye. The bartender came up to check on him and he hoped the stranger in the white sweater didn’t think he had initiated the flirtation the bartender was all too easily engaging him in. He saw her raise her full glass to her lips and watched them softly press against it as she took a small sip. She held the glass, slowly twirling it. He saw her gaze was drifting towards the people at the other end of the bar and found himself wanting her eyes to find him. He had caught a quick glimpse of her eyes, noting they were a soft brown, but he wanted to know more. He wanted to see them sparkle. He wanted to see what they look like when she laughs. He wanted to know the subtle color specks within them, the ones that someone could only see once they’ve spent hours immersed in them.
Her legs were crossed and she was facing away from him. She had hoped that this would entice him but ensure he knew she wasn’t open to talking. He wondered if she had someone to go home to, if someone had already stolen her heart. He wanted to know why she was there alone.
“Sweetie, you ready for another glass?” the bartender asked the woman in the white sweater. She took a deep breath and looked at her nearly empty glass.
“Oh, sure. Why not?” she responded with a soft laugh.
“Excuse me,” the tall stranger called to the bartender as she walked away from the bar. The bartender turned to face him. “I’ll have whatever she’s having,” he said confidently, gesturing to the woman he found himself so desperately wanting to know. Shit, he thought to himself. Who says that?
She looked down at the bar, smiling softly. He saw her cheeks turn a soft pink. She had noticed him. He knew this was his chance.
“You know,” he said as shifted in his seat to face her, “if this wine is horrible, I’m blaming you.” She continued to face forward as she smiled and softly laughed. Her nose crinkled, but he still wanted to see what happened to her eyes when she laughed. He found himself silently willing her to turn towards him.
She didn’t. “We’ll just have to see, I guess,” she said as she slightly turned her head in his direction, her eyes flickering up at him briefly.
Now it was no longer a desire to gain her attention, it was a need. He needed to know “why”. He needed to know why she was there alone. He needed to know why she wasn’t turning towards him. He needed to know why she came to this very spot at this exact time and why she chose rosé over red.
The bartender returned with their glasses and quickly glanced between the two strangers, sensing the now palpable tension. She looked at the man, raising her eyebrows and subtly tilting her head towards the woman. He nodded, laughed, and took a sip from his glass. Before the bartender could walk away, he turned to the woman as she began to take her first drink of her freshly poured glass. “It seems like our bartender wants me to talk to you,” he said confidently. The bartender laughed, shook her head, and walked away. The woman laughed once more, but this time she turned.
There she was. Her body language changed. He noticed her relax a little. Her shoulders lowered and her legs remained crossed, but she leaned forward towards the chair that sat between them. “I think you wanted to talk to me before the bartender said something,” she said as took another drink.
She was confident. She had a glass of wine in her system and she had nothing to lose. She wasn’t intending to meet anyone. That didn’t matter. She could indulge him and then quietly leave to return home on her own, locking away the memory of the handsome stranger she met on a weekend away. He sat back in his chair, smiling and laughing. “I did want to talk to you the second you sat down,” he said as he studied her face.
“Why didn’t you?”
“You didn’t want me to.” He leaned on the chair between them, trying everything he could do to get closer to her.
He was right. She didn’t. She shrugged at him and turned to face forward. He knew this was going to be hard. Why was her guard up? Why didn’t she want to be talked to?
“Hey,” he said. “Can I sit here?” He tapped on the chair back of the only thing standing between the two of them.
“I’m a writer,” she blurted out. She glanced at his face, to see him puzzled by that statement. She sighed. “I came here to write.”
“You came to a wine bar to write?”
“No. I came for a weekend away to drink coffee, drink wine, and write. I came here for a glass of wine and to attempt to push past this block I’m having.” She noticed he continued to move towards her while still keeping that chair between them. She found herself wanting to give him every detail of her life and hear every one of his. Must be the wine, she thought. Surely she couldn’t think that about a stranger.
“Well, what do you write?” he asked.
“I don’t really know. Just stuff here and there.”
He sighed, leaning back in his chair. He was not one to pursue after being turned down and yet, he found himself not wanting to let her walk away from him without at least catching her name. “Can I buy you a glass of wine?” he asked.
She glanced at her glass. “I have one.”
“Yes, but the one after this.”
“If I have one more I won’t be able to drive,” she laughed.
“Okay, then I’ll buy you your next glass and the cup of coffee you’ll need to sober up.”
She shook her head, laughing. “Are you always this persistent?”
“No,” he said. “I’m not.”
“Then why now?” she asked, turning to face him once again.
“I don’t know,” he said softly, finally meeting her eyes for longer than a brief glance. She blushed. “One drink. One coffee,” he said quietly, looking intently into her eyes.
She laughed, covering her smile with her hand. “I really should go after this,” she said as she took another drink of her wine. Then she felt his hand on her arm.
“One drink,” he said softly. “One coffee. That’s it. Then I’ll leave you be.”
She sighed. “But I really came here to write,” she said glancing at her watch, realizing the night was slowly escaping her and soon it’d be a wasted one if she didn’t get home to her laptop soon.
He moved to the chair in between them. This time he was close enough she could see the subtle colors in his eyes. He had a few flecks of gray in his beard. He leaned close and she felt her breathing quicken and her heart beat faster. He moved closer until he could smell her perfume and see the shimmers of gold she had in her brown eyes.
He lightly squeezed her arm and smiled. “One drink. One coffee.”
She smiled. He could tell she was giving in. All he wanted was for her to nod. He wanted her to tell him it was okay. He wanted her to say, “Yes.”
She raised her glass to her soft lips and took the final swig. This time, though, her eyes locked with his. Without breaking their shared gaze, she flagged down the bartender. She smiled as she turned away from a man she knew had the potential from here on out to break her heart. She leaned forward towards the bartender, feeling his hand softly lay upon her upper back, briefly taking her breath away. He slowly ran his hand along her shoulders, sending a spark throughout her entire body.
“Another glass of the rosé, hon?” the bartender asked, smiling at the two strangers, feeling as though she played a part in their meet cute.
The woman turned to the persistent, handsome stranger. She smiled and said, “One drink.” The man beamed back at her, eager to hear all she had to say.
The woman placed her hand on his as she turned towards the bartender once more. She smiled, brighter than she had all evening. “I’ll take a glass of your most expensive wine,” she said. She turned to the gentleman, who was now laughing and shaking his head as he raised up his fingers to signal “two” to the bartender.
She squeezed his hand, still laughing at her own antics. She leaned forward a bit more, noticing his eyes fixating on her lips. She smiled brightly. “Nice to meet you,” she softly said.
“And you,” he said as he leaned forward to meet her lips with his.