Home > One for the Road (Barflies #3)

One for the Road (Barflies #3)
Author: Katia Rose


One

 

 

Zach

 

 

GARNISH: an addition made to an alcoholic drink to enhance its presentation

 

 

“Esti. It’s locked.”

I pause where I’m pulling a crate of lemons off the shelves and turn to face DeeDee. We’re gathering garnishes from the bar’s walk-in fridge so she can get her station prepped for tonight’s shift. The chilled air has already raised goose bumps on my skin, but that’s not enough to stop the rush of heat that comes from being this close to her in a cramped, dim space—even one that’s filled with crates of fruits and vegetables.

“Locked?” I ask, turning to face her and hoping against hope that the heat hasn’t risen to my face.

She yanks on the handle again, but nothing happens. I watch her throw her weight against the door next, grunting with the effort. The thing doesn’t budge. She gives up and leans her back against it instead, crossing her bare arms over her chest and blowing a lock of candy pink hair out of her eyes.

“Locked,” she repeats.

Don’t look down. You are a gentleman. Don’t look down.

My grip tightens on the lemon crate. There’s no way she won’t notice if I let my eyes drop to her cleavage, but damn it, with her arms crossed like that, it’s like being told there’s a world famous celebrity across the street and forcing yourself not to turn your head.

Yes, DeeDee Beausoleil’s chest has celebrity status in my world, and probably the world of anyone who’s ever met her. DeeDee herself holds something of a celebrity status around Montreal. Not a day goes by at this bar where I don’t watch someone new walk through the door only to fall under her spell in five seconds flat.

She’s arresting. Intoxicating. Electrifying. Whatever you want to call it, she’s got it. Trademark bright pink hair and a diamond stud in her nose, husky laugh that always sounds like the start of a crazy adventure, the damn cutest Québécois accent I’ve ever heard, and curves that do not quit: she’s—

“Zach?”

I catch myself just before my eyes drop from her face, jerking back like I’ve been caught sneaking in somewhere I shouldn’t be.

Of course, I send the lemons tumbling out of the crate and onto the floor.

DeeDee cackles, a throaty, smoky sound that has me ready to tip another crate of citrus fruit over if she gets any closer.

She steps closer.

“You dork. What did you do that for?”

She nudges a lemon with her toe, and I focus on the tip of her black, non-slip sneaker instead of the goose bumps on her midriff. DeeDee’s other trademark is crop tops, and even in the relentless frigidity that is late March in Montreal, she’s still got her stomach—and electric blue belly button ring—on display more often than not.

Do. Not. Look.

Normally I’m not frothing at the mouth like this. Normally we’re friends—good friends, friends who’ve known each other for two and a half years. We have regular human conversations. We send each other text messages. We make jokes and pull faces whenever I walk past her station behind the bar. We cheer each other on when we’re dealing with the occasional shitty customer and high five when we make big tips off the good ones. She’s the only person I know who can make an eight hour shift fly by and leave me wishing it were longer.

Being around DeeDee makes every colour in the world seem a little brighter, bolder, and more beautiful. Normally that’s enough to stop me from wishing for more. Normally I can function—or at least pretend to function—around her, but when she’s three inches away in an enclosed space with just one fluorescent light bulb casting shadows on her skin, when her shivers are just begging for someone to wrap their arms around her and pull her close...

“Zachy Zach, what’s the matter with you?”

I raise my eyes from her foot, doing my best to block out any distracting curves on the way up to her face, and find her staring at me with an eyebrow raised and her mouth pursed in a suspicious grimace.

“I, uh, just figured that since we’re apparently stuck in here, we should give ourselves something to do.” I gesture to the fallen lemons.

To my surprise, she raises a finger and jabs it straight at my face, shouting “HA!” before another throaty laugh bursts out of her.

“What?” I demand. “Did you have a better idea for how to fill the time we’re stuck in the fridge?”

That came out wrong. Or right? No. Wrong. Definitely wrong.

She keeps laughing to herself as she makes her way back to the door and reaches for the handle.

“Joke is on you, mon ami. I can’t believe you fell for that. Everyone knows it doesn’t lock from the inside.”

Everyone does know that. Restaurant safety 101: ensure employees can’t get stuck in the fridge.

As my mother would say, “You’re a fool, Zachary Joseph Hastings.”

She would also probably be echoed by my two sisters. It’s a favourite phrase for all three of them.

DeeDee cracks the door open an inch and turns to warn the kitchen staff that she’s exiting. The sudden view of her tight black pants has me letting out a sound similar to someone getting punched in the stomach. I cover it up with a cough.

A fool, indeed.

“This is what you get for not appreciating my meme,” DeeDee calls over her shoulder. “Now you have to pick those lemons up and cut them for me.”

She steps out into the kitchen. The sounds of clinking dishes, chatting cooks, and a hip hop anthem blasting on the stereo seep into the fridge before the door swings shut. I’m engulfed in silence again, alone save for the faint buzzing of the bulb above my head.

I’m still standing there, thinking about how cute her accent sounds when she says ‘appreciating’ when the meaning of her words catches up with me.

“Right. That meme,” I mutter as I crouch down and start gathering lemons.

I love memes—possibly too much. In addition to working at Taverne Toulouse, I’ve been running an ecommerce business from home for over a year now, and the single biggest threat to my productivity is the way being on the internet gives me constant access to memes.

I stand by my fixation. Call me crazy, but I believe memes are one of the most undiluted essences of our culture there is. When the anthropologists of the future are trying to piece together what exactly the hell happened to our society, I’d bet everything I own they find the answer in memes.

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