All In Love Is Fair

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by Kathleen

Markham’s Pub is perfect for this neighborhood. I
m the bartender and know all the regulars. Roger and Jason arrive after work without fail, and again after dinner. Friends since grade school, they’re grateful to still have jobs.

They drink whiskey and recite the same old childhood pranks. But their patter changes so the humor rises differently every time. They don’t get noticeably drunk or ask me the obvious. And they never confess.

Their girlfriends are nursing students. Zoë and Vanessa don’t come in when Roger and Jason are here. They arrive earlier, drink wine near a window, and hold hands.

Today after an hour of giggling and entwining pretty ankles under their table, the girls approach the bar, having agreed I should know what’s what.

Ordinarily, I turn my back when people offer details. But Zoë and Vanessa are so damn cute—in love—that I’m happy to listen.

“The only reason they don’t already know,” Vanessa says, “is because they’re oblivious. On purpose.”

’ve given them fair warning,” Zoë says. “I mean, how explicit do we have to be? We’ve said we’re serious.”

Later, when Roger and Jason arrive after work, I’m less thrilled by the situation.

Roger watches a pair of dark beauties lost in conversation and asks, “In your educated opinion, Joe, are they lesbians?”

“The Brianti sisters? Shy but straight.”

For weeks now Roger and Jason have wondered about women alone, women in pairs, and women in groups. Sapphic love appears everywhere. Or is it just them?

This evening neither shows up after dinner. Instead they stagger in, well after my shift when I
m savoring my brandy and choosing the night’s final playlist.

“We don’t need to tell you what happened.” Jason rocks back and forth.

“You know I couldn
t have known for sure, till now. Can I buy you guys a drink?”

Of course, I can. And since I
’ve always liked them, I listen to their side—seems only fair. Zoë’s moving in with Vanessa; Jason’s stuff was piled up in the hallway. Roy can’t make the rent alone but—no way can they live together.

“Sorry.” I salute when their drinks arrive. “To better days.”

“We’re okay, Joe. I’m better already.”

Maybe so, but I hear them out until four a.m. Jason worries he
s failed to encourage Zoë’s feminine side. And Roger admits to too much time acting like guys, no girls allowed.

“Don’t blame yourselves. Maybe they were made for each other.”

“If so, they lied to us. Told us both we were their best lovers ever.”

“And until lately, you probably were.”

Roger turns away, eyes brimming. “What do you really think?”

“What I always think: All in Love is Fair—Stevie Wonder. ’Cuse me a sec.” And I yell out, “Last call!”


Stella said...

Oh, Kathleen... You always throw in a twist where I don't expect it.

Rousby said...

Perhaps the next song the bartender plays should be "Anything Goes."

Ed Yates said...

Lovely little story! Really felt like you knew the scene and the characters you were writing about. I look forward to reading more.

kathleenmaher said...

Stella, I'm so glad to hear that. My husband likes "surprise" endings. Or he thinks they'd work here. I think a surprise coming at the reader in so short a piece would be insulting. Sot if my askew personality puts in a twist, it is (for me anyway) a true rendering.

Rousby, No argument from me. Anything does go.

Ed Yates, Thank you so much. It's wonderful to have a new reader or new commenter.

gary davison said...

I'm getting worse with these computers, this is my second comment to this story! So here we go again: I thought this was so well written, that it felt like I'd read alot more of the story before it actually started. Not easy to do, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and of course, I can vividly imagined what came after!

kathleenmaher said...

Praise from you, Gary Davison, is a thrill. Thank you so much!