Agnes & BB is a bi-weekly fiction series that I’m writing in conjunction with Amanda. We’ll be telling the same story from the perspective of two different characters. You can read BB’s story here and Agnes’ story via Amanda’s blog.
Massachusetts. August, 1947.
One year earlier.
There is something about the girl at the end of the bar. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it yet. It’s a year now she’s been coming here. She waves me away whenever I try and take her order and so finally I stop trying to take her order. Normally I might care about someone who just comes in to sit for hours at a time. Normally I might tell ‘em to get the fuck and stay out. But not this girl. She’s harmless. She just sits there. She wears the same thing every day. Dirty dress. Dirty fur coat. One bright, shiny ring. Green. Looks real. It’s the only thing about her that isn’t dirty. It shines bright in the light from the dim overhead bulbs. Every so often it winks just so and it catches my eye and this girl and I, we almost look at each other. But mostly she looks at her hands folded on the top of the bar. And mostly I wait on the other customers and right before closing is when she gets up and leaves. That’s it. At least once a week, there’s this girl. At least once a week for the past year and I’ve not so much as gotten her name.
Until today. Today is different. I know right away that today is different just by how she walks into the bar. She picks her way across the room and sits down at her usual stool. Nobody sits in that stool. People know it’s her stool. There is something different about the way she walks, something different about the way she sits down and folds her hands in front of her. I can’t help but look her way and that is when she raises a finger and lowers it again. It’s the finger she wears that damn ring. Just this tiny movement. If you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed it. But I know what it means. All bartenders know what it means. It’s a call for a drink. A request for service.
I hardly know what to do with myself. The bar is deserted, just this girl and the usual suspects in the usual booths and on the usual stools. Tommy and Jim play pool in the back. Old Al has his head down, lays slumped with his body over the bar. Nobody has seen this girl—the quiet girl, the silent girl—raise her finger at me. Nobody has seen anything.
I keep looking at her but I’ve forgotten to move and that’s when she does it again, raises her finger again, a little irritated this time. She shrugs her shoulders like—you gonna come over here, or what?
So I go over.
“Get you somethin’?”
“I’d like a coca-cola. No ice, please,” she says.
It’s hot in here, hot outside. Hot everywhere.
“No ice. Just put it into a glass for me.”
For some reason, this bugs me. I can feel the sweat crawling up the back of my hairline and dripping from my ankles into the bottoms of my shoes. It’s hot, like. Hot—and she says she doesn’t want ice.
I want to argue more, but I stop myself. The girl isn’t looking at me anymore. It’s like she can’t bother, maybe, or maybe like—I don’t know. I go and get a bottle of cola. I pop it open and pour it into a glass. I slide it towards her. She looks at it, like she’s checking I did it right. She nods once.
I just know this isn’t gonna lead to anything good. I just somehow know. The quiet girl has ordered a cola and it’s all gonna go downhill from here.