This is the second installment of my web series, Ada. Stay tuned here for the continuation of this story over the next several weeks. As always, your feedback is appreciated.
His hands were the first thing she noticed, not his nice thick hair or the bright smile that outshone anything that dared to steal the spotlight. He was ruggedly handsome and broad and walked with a self-assured swagger that seemed old school in the theater of impotent men. When he introduced himself and extended his hand, she didn’t expect it to swallow hers so completely. Something reassuring rested in his deep palms, and Ada was immediately interested in spite of her usual skepticism about men in bars.
“Are you here by yourself?” the man asked looking at the empty space beside her. Only the bartender lingered nearby.
Ada paused and wished for a moment that she was, but she answered truthfully. “My girlfriend is in the bathroom.”
She thought she noticed a trickle of disappointment flicker across his face, but his smile persisted and he edged closer to the bar next to her.
“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked. It was part question, part demand.
Again Ada paused. Normally, she refused such clichéd come-ons, but something about the man melted her resistance. “Sure.”
“What are you having?”
“Really.” She smiled coyly and he nodded a short laugh.
The man directed the bartender to refresh her drink and ordered a whisky on the rocks for himself. Ada watched carefully as his big hand waved in the air at the bartender. His confidence quickened her pulse, but his hands were the object of her attention.
“I’m Shane by the way,” he said after the bartender walked away to prepare their drinks.
“I’m Ada,” she said sheepishly. She peered over his shoulder looking for Jenny to return from the restroom.
“Is your friend coming back?” he asked.
As if on cue, Jenny appeared from the other end of the bar to Shane’s back and walked slowly toward Ada. She smiled and arched her eyebrows in that funny way she always did when she and Ada met guys on their nights out. Ada tried to keep a straight face, but Shane could clearly see that she was looking over his shoulder before Jenny arrived. He turned to follow her line of sight.
“Is that your friend?” he asked as he saw Jenny walking toward them.
“Yes. That’s Jenny,” Ada said. Her eyes wandered to the back of his head. His thick hair glistened in the dull light of the bar. She wanted to reach out and run her fingers through it, but she resisted.
“Hi, I’m Jenny,” Jenny said as she approached them. She extended her hand and Shane took it in his. Ada knew Jenny noticed it too. She subconsciously patted his hand with her free hand before he released her and turned back to Ada.
“Can I get you a drink?” Shane offered Jenny.
Jenny smiled and absently twirled her hair in the spotlight of his attention. For a moment Ada felt an intense pang of jealousy. He’d noticed her first, not Jenny, and she didn’t like her flirting with him. She worried that his attention had been diverted just when her interest in him was growing.
“I’ll have a Corona,” she squeaked.
Shane turned toward the bartender who had just arrived with their drinks and ordered the beer. The bartender scurried off and grabbed a bottle from behind the bar. He popped the top and sat it on the bar as Shane slid Ada’s drink down the bar to her. He grabbed the beer and handed it to Jenny.
“To a wonderful evening, ladies,” Shane said raising his glass to toast. The glasses clinked with each other and the beer bottle. Each of them took their first sip or two.
“Do you come here often?” Shane asked. Ada almost groaned at the predictable conversation. She wondered if she were in a really bad beer commercial where the handsome man attempted ham-handed come-ons in a bar. Were he not so good looking, she would have walked away already. His conversation skills needed work. A lot of work.
“Is that your way of asking if we’re drunks?” Ada quipped. She had a tendency to be provocative even with people she had just met.
Shane chuckled and squinted at Ada adoringly. “I’m not going to judge.”
“Maybe just a little,” Jenny smiled as if she were sharing a secret. She took a tiny sip of her beer but kept her eyes on Ada and Shane both of whom seemed engaged in some sort of dance. She had noticed it right away, and that feeling of being the third party in a two-person play seeped into her mind despite all of the drinks she’d had already.
She watched Ada interact with the interloper. The conversation was playful and spirited, a cat-and-mouse game with only one ending likely. Shane’s attention only sporadically returned to her. He kept his spotlight smile mostly aimed at Ada. Jenny was happy for her friend but jealous too. She decided to beg out for the night.
“I need to get going. It’s late,” Jenny yawned.
“It’s 11 o’clock. On a Friday night.” Ada retorted. She seemed shocked by her friend’s announcement. Shane seemed relieved, but he shook his head as if he disapproved.
“Are we boring you?” he asked. He waved one of his big hands in the air between them and amped up his beaming smile.
“I have take my mom to the airport tomorrow morning. She’s going to visit her sister in Phoenix,” Jenny explained. This was technically a lie. Her mom had refused her offer and planned to take a taxi, but Jenny wanted to see her before she left on her trip, and assuming that she could get up on time, that was her real plan.
Ada started to say something like she knew that Jenny was lying, but instead, she stepped toward her best friend and hugged her. She whispered “Thank you” into her friend’s ear as they embraced.
Shane and Ada watched Jenny walk away before they turned back to each other to resume their conversation. The night rushed along. Ada nursed a single drink during the time that Shane downed three whiskies. The more he drank the louder he became and the more animated his stories were. Ada noticed the effect of the liquor, but his charming personality and his general warmth enthralled her, pulled her in like the gravity of a heavenly body distorting the orbit of a comet. Ada shook and rattled as each touch of his large hand electrified her. She wanted to step closer to him and feel him next to her, but that was for another time.
Despite her resistance, sleep pulled at her. By one o’clock she visibly listed on the bar stool next to Shane. His words suddenly had gaps in them filled with the blanking of her mind as sleep overtook her.
“I…I should get home,” Ada said finally.
Shane stood up. “Let me take you. My car’s just down the street.”
The temptation was great, but even in her foggy state of exhaustion, her cautionary nature prevailed. “No, that’s fine. Thank you. I’ll get a cab.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind.”
“Yes. You’re so sweet,” She demurred.
“Can I at least get your number?” Shane asked.
She smiled again. “You’re going to call me?”
“That’s the plan.” He remained confident despite the thickening of his words at the late hour. Ada barely noticed the effect of the whiskies and whatever else he had drunk before they met.
She gave him her number and he poked it into the tiny keyboard on his phone before he stood up and gave her a platonic hug. She felt engulfed by him, overwhelmed, but he was as gentle as a child.
“Good night, Ada.”
“Good night, Shane.”
Ada walked away and didn’t look back. She desperately wanted to know if he was watching her leave (she hoped he was), but sleep beckoned and the long cab ride home was the only thing standing between her and what was surely to be a deep and remarkable sleep. She couldn’t help but feel like her life had been knocked onto a different course. Something was different about Shane. He wasn’t like the other men she had met, and she hoped that was a good thing. Only time would tell.