For the first time in her life, Violet feels like a normal human being, spending a normal evening at the hotel bar with a colleague after a long workday, as if this is a part of her normal life. Cassandra doesn’t know this about Violet though and, after ordering their wine, she glances over her shoulder toward a man sitting alone at a table nearby. Violet follows Cassandra’s gaze. The man wears a light plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up over his forearms. He is looking in their direction, and he makes eye contact with Violet. Cassandra nods at him.
“Hey, what’s your story?” Cassandra asks him. “What are you doing here in Omaha?”
He is in his mid-thirties, blond and handsome and fit, leaning back in his chair, and he never takes his eyes off Violet as he answers Cassandra’s question. With an embarrassed grin, he says, “I’m…in town for a modeling job”.
“Oh, sure you are. In Omaha?” Cassandra laughs. “What type of modeling gig?”
“I model underwear. Sometimes dress shirts.” He shrugs, blushing. His eyes sparkle at Violet, but she ignores whatever it is that she’s noticing. She’s noticing being noticed.
“I can vouch for him,” the bartender says. “He comes here every six, eight weeks. Another round, Logan?”
“How about I buy these ladies a round?”
Violet quickly shakes her head. “No, thank you. I have to work in the morning. We both do. But thank you.”
“What’s your name?” He asks.
Cassandra introduces Violet and then herself. “And yes, we will have a second round. My friend isn’t being unfriendly, she’s just really, really responsible.” She looks back at Violet. “One more won’t hurt.”
Violet takes a deep breath. “Right. You’re right. One won’t hurt. I’ll just have another white wine. Thank you.”
A guy hasn’t bought Violet a drink, she realizes, ever.
“And you’re obviously Logan,” Cassandra says, very comfortable with banter and normal chit chat. Violet is not. Violet feels abnormal and nineteen again. She never learned to flirt. Didn’t need to, once a confident boy in her freshman dorm pointed at her and said, “I’m taking you to the Homecoming Game”. She hardly knew anyone at school. Hadn’t been to a football game before. That was ten years ago.
“So. Logan,” Cassandra says. “Who do you model for? Anyone we would know?”
Logan chuckles. “I doubt it. You both seem very stylish. I do most of my work for J.C. Penney. Some other stuff here and there. Nothing super popular.” He meets Violet’s eyes again. She gulps her wine. Logan swishes his glass on the table, swirling a dark liquid that nearly hypnotizes her.
“We’re from out of town, too,” Cassandra says. “Violet lives in North Carolina. I’m from Lincoln. Where are you visiting from?”
Violet doesn’t hear where he says he’s from. The gentle thrumming in her ears is distracting. Cassandra finishes her wine, yawns. “I’m turning in for the night.” Then into Violet’s shoulder, “you stay as late you like. He’s into you.”
“I’m ready, too!” Violet says. “Thanks again for the wine.” As she passes Logan on the way to the elevator he watches her with a faint smile. When she turns inside the elevator before the doors close, he is still looking at her.
Violet reaches her room and slides the key card in the slot, and chides herself for the missed opportunity. She’s practically single now. Almost, anyway. The paperwork was filed six months ago. What’s wrong with talking to a nice man in a bar? She could easily turn around and rejoin him at his table, ask to start the conversation over. See if he’ll grin and lean back in his chair, signal the bartender, and then lean his blond forearms on the table. She would have his undivided attention. Then maybe later, in her room, he would pull her close and press his tongue into her mouth and she would welcome it.
If Violet goes back downstairs, she wonders, what would she and Logan talk about? She was never very good at propelling a conversation the way Cassandra could. She’s never had a one night stand, and has no idea how things progress from light pleasantries to mutual passion. Is she properly shaved tonight, the way her ex always wanted? How are some people seemingly ready for intimacy on a moment’s notice, when there are certain things to consider beforehand? She isn’t on birth control, for one thing. She has wine breath. Her bra and panties don’t match — something an underwear model like Logan would surely notice.
Violet wonders: Would Logan stay through the morning or leave before sunrise? Would her boss take one look at her during their morning meeting and know instinctively that she spent the night with a stranger? And how humiliating would it be if she doesn’t perform well tonight, only to run into him again the next time she comes to Omaha? What if Logan is in a relationship, or married, with children?
This is silly, Violet thinks while brushing her teeth. Absolutely insane to even consider, as she strips off of her clothes and digs through her open suitcase. A total breach of professionalism, as she removes her cubic zirconia earrings to keep safely in a pill box in her toiletry bag. Before turning out the lights she locks her wallet and rental car keys in the safe, as usual.
The elevator doors part and Logan is still sitting at the small table, leaning back in his chair and watching the tv over the bar. Violet adjusts the strap of the fresh bra under her cowl neck sweater. She approaches his table and sits in the chair across from him. Logan looks at her with a slow smile. He leans his blond forearms on the table and holds two fingers up to the bartender. No ring.
This is the story she and Logan will tell for years to come.
Jody Rae’s work appears in The Babel Tower Notice Board, The Avalon Literary Review, The Good Life Review, and Red Fez. Her short story, “Beautiful Mother” was a finalist in the Phoebe Journal 2021 Spring Fiction Contest. She was the first prize winner of the 2019 Winning Writers Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest for her poem, “Failure to Triangulate”. She has pieces forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit, RESURRECTION magazine, and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. Her work can be found at www.criminysakesalive.com.