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Corona Barmaid
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The Bar of Love

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Scotch Neat
It's about half past seven on a Saturday in early November. I've been on since four, and I'm still not used to the fact that it's already starting to get dark by that time of the afternoon now that Daylight Saving Time is over. It makes me feel like it's later than it really is, so even though I'm a night owl, I keep checking my watch to see how far off midnight still is. It's also been raining off and on all day, and people have been tracking water in, soaking the mats we've taken to laying out on wet days since Bill took a header that put him in the hospital.

When Lanie and Victor told us at a staff meeting a couple of months ago that we'd be putting down mats on rainy days, Todd asked if that wasn't risky. He said he understood that we should make it safer, but by making our entryway less dangerous, weren't we admitting that it was dangerous in the first place, so that anybody who might have gotten hurt before (and he studiously avoided mentioning Bill by name at this point, even though he was also at the meeting) could use it as proof that we were careless in a lawsuit? Before they could respond, Diego piped up, "No, you can't use correcting a danger after an accident as evidence of the danger in court. If you could, people would have motivation not to correct dangers." The room was quiet for a moment as everyone looked at him kind of funny, then he added, "What? Someone has got to listen to Jack when he gets going about his job."

I smile remembering that comment, and glance over at Diego as he works at keeping the bottle cooler full. Simone's mixing some white russians, Bill is at the door, Lou Reed is on the jukebox, and it's a good, decently-tipping crowd with no troublemakers (at least not yet). I take an order for a bunch of interesting international beers from four guys who look like they're down for some serious beer research. As I'm collecting their tips, I see Redhead, the WingWoman, walking up to the bar with a guy in tow.

She looks great, as usual, and she winks at me as they approach. It's not hard to figure out what the wink means; Don't let on you know me, definitely don't let on I'm dating a former client, and I'll make sure your tips are lovely as usual. So I put on a big smile and take their order - merlot for her, and Sam Adams for him. Her client looks like a decent guy, and before long, Redhead is introducing him to a pretty blonde.

The truth is that I haven't seen her in a few months, so I don't know for sure she's still dating Danny, but they sure looked like a couple very much in love when they were in here one night this summer. In fact, he seemed like a different person altogether - more confident, better dressed, and I swear, maybe even a little taller. But the best part was that Redhead could not stop grinning the entire time. They'd been together five or six months already, and she was still floating. I was already in the middle of planning my move-in with Jenny, but I was still a little jealous of the difference they were obviously making in each other's lives.

"Hey, Debra," says Simone, "I forgot, who's coming on at eight?"

"Pretty sure it's Jocelyn, but you can go check the schedule in the back room if you want to take a minute."

"No, that's okay." She begins to turn, then stops. "Hey, Debra," she starts again, "when's the last time you took a closing shift?"

"Um... I would have to check, but I think it's probably been a couple of weeks. Why?"

"Actually, if you check, I think you'll find it's been a couple of months."

"Really? Well, I guess I prefer it that way now that I'm living with Jenny. She sometimes works late, but for the most part she has much more conventional work hours. If I get home at 4:30 and her alarm goes off at seven, it's no good for anybody."

"Okay, but that means that the rest of us have to work all the closing shifts. And sometimes we'd like to have a little variety and flexibility in our schedules, too."

I shrug. "So complain to the Senior Bartender about scheduling."

She blinks, and opens her mouth for a few seconds. "Debra, that's you."

"I know!" I grin, trying to be playful about it, but she doesn't buy it.

"No, I mean I already am complaining to the Senior Bartender, and the problem is the Senior Bartender. We're all friends, I was hoping you'd just be cool about this - none of us wants to talk to Pat or Todd, and I'm sure you don't want us to talk to Pat or Todd."

"None of us? You guys have been talking to each other about this?"

Simone sighs. "Of course we have."

I bite my lip, and start to feel a little like Chandler in an early season of "Friends" when he gets promoted, and all his old friends at the company stop hanging out with him. I even wonder for a moment if the other barmaids do impressions of me for each other, and then I put it out of my head.

"You're right, Simone, I'll talk to Jenny, and we'll figure something out. It's not fair to the rest of you."

Simone nods and backs up a little, visibly relieved. "Thanks, Debra. Hey, how's it been living with Jenny, anyway?"

"Great," I smile. "You know, I should really have everyone over for some kind of housewarming party. I mean, she's lived there for a while, and she owns the place, but the whole Brooklyn thing is new to me - and not everybody has even met her yet."

"Well, you know I have - I claim responsibility for the whole thing," Simone winks.

"What whole thing?" asks Jocelyn, as she comes around the bar to check in.

"Jenny and me," I tell her.

"Oh, yeah - I forget sometimes, I'm not the only girl who ended up with someone because of working here. Plus, it's not just the girls, Vince met Jill here, too. We really ought to put that in our help wanted ads when we have openings: 'Work at The Bar: good customers, good tips, and a one in three chance of falling in love.'"

I laugh, but Simone doesn't even smile; she just goes back to the other end of the bar and starts taking orders again. As I also dive back into serving customers, I realize she's never really talked about guys. They hit on her just as much as any of us, but she's just as good as any of us at shrugging them off. I wonder what she's looking for - and whether she's got much of a chance of finding it while she's modeling for porn. And then I wonder if I can figure out a way to return the favor somehow.

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