Today’s story comes to us from guest author Heather Marie Maieli.
Heather Marie Maieli is from upstate New York. She is currently studying Creative Writing and Fiction at Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys painting and binging on Humphrey Bogart movies with her cat, Astrid.
They say that you meet the one when you least expect. Freya Danvers wasn’t really sure who “they” were, she wasn’t even sure where the saying even came from, but it wasn’t until that night that she actually started to understand what they were talking about.
It had been a week from Hell. That was actually an understatement, it had been much worse than that, and her days off had not come soon enough. Unfortunately, none of her friends seemed to be around for the evening, not that she would have been much fun to even be around in, in the mood she was so stuck in lately, so Freya found herself venturing off to the local bar by herself. One drink, she told herself, then back home for some movie watching for the night. The thought made her sad, she hadn’t realized how lonely that sounded and for a moment, she resented the fact that she was alone. Her last relationship had ended over a year ago, and she had been pretty content with her single status. Until now…maybe it was that the leaves were starting to turn, the nights getting colder. Freya really loved this time of year, but it would be a lot nicer if she had someone to share it with.
The bar wasn’t that busy, and as she made her way inside and found a seat, she noticed a DJ setting up for karaoke. That should be entertaining. She was never one of those people to willingly go up in front of a crowd and do something like that. The idea of singing in front of a bunch of people made her feel on edge. Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to the assortment of bottles before her and caught the bartender’s attention. Once she got her drink, she really settled in, and started to daydream.
As the music started up, she allowed herself to get lost in it, the stress from work starting to melt away.
Freya had been so lost in her own thoughts, that she hadn’t even noticed someone had slid into the empty seat beside her. The bar must have started to fill up because the seat had been vacant since she had first arrived.
Looking to her right her eyes widened slightly. The guy sitting beside her was not only attractive, but was smiling at her, a drink of his own in one hand while his other arm draped across the back of his seat.
She could feel herself starting to blush, and her cheeks flamed even more when she realized that instead of answering, she had just been staring…
“It’s um-” she turned the bottle so that the label would be more visible, picking at one of the corners. “-an Angry Orchard…” The words came out a bit slower than Freya had meant and judging by the look he gave her, he probably figured that she thought he was dumb or something.
He continued to stare and she swallowed nervously. “You know…it’s like a cider…hard cider!” she quickly corrected herself and offered him a tiny shrug. “Grown up’s version of apple juice.”
The guy laughed at this and shook his head, looking down at his own drink. “Yeah, think I’ll stick to whiskey…”
The amber liquid sloshed around as he gave his glass a tiny shake. Freya watched for a second, a bit tranced by it before finally looking away. Taking another sip from her cider and she shrugged slightly.
“Well, ‘tis the season and all that…it was this or some of that pumpkin spice rum they’re hiding somewhere behind the bar…”
Freya couldn’t help but giggle at the face he made. After a moment, she extended a hand towards him.
The two shook hands, and she couldn’t help noting how green Mason’s eyes were. They had a tiny ring of gold around the pupils and if you looked quickly enough, they seemed reptilian. Not wanting to be caught staring again, she quickly glanced away, pretending to pay attention to the woman who was now up at the mic, singing some country song.
In between songs, the two started talking, just some polite chit-chat at first. Freya learned that he had been a few years ahead of her in school and that they shared some similar friends and interests. They talked about work and their families, and every so often, she would find herself glancing back towards the karaoke set up.
“You gonna sing tonight?” Mason sounded as if the thought amused him, and Freya looked back at him, quickly shaking her head.
“No way!” Her eyes widened at the thought. “Not a chance in hell…”
Mason grinned and leaned towards her. “Oh come on…what if I went up there and sang something with you?”
He had to see the fear in her eyes, she pressed her lips together in a thin line, shaking her head once more. But there was a look of determination on Mason’s face and it was clear that he would not be taking no for an answer.
Standing up, he pushed his seat back from the bar and held out his hand. “When was the last time you just took a chance, did something crazy?”
“Well, I talked to you tonight didn’t I?”
Her answer seemed to surprise Mason and he chuckled softly, then smiled. “Just trust me on this…what have you got to lose?”
Maybe it was the alcohol, or the way the lights made his eyes shine. Freya wasn’t sure what made her put her hand in his, or why she allowed him to drag her up to the mic. She didn’t run as he picked a song for them to sing. There was just something about this guy, and as the song started up, so did the butterflies in her stomach. Freya hoped Mason felt it too, and it wasn’t until they had finished singing, and the bar had erupted in applause that she realized he still held her hand.
The night practically flew by after this and before either of them realized, it was closing time. As the bartenders started yelling for last call, she excused herself to say goodbye to some people.
As she made her way back from the departing crowd, she stole a quick glance in one the mirrored liquor signs on the wall and pushed a stray piece of hair from in front of her eyes. There was this flush across her cheeks and it took her a moment to realize that the excitement she was starting to feel wasn’t just from meeting Mason, but because for the first time in a while she had started to feel more like herself again. Happy.
Unable to stop a huge smile from spreading across her face, Freya made her way back to the bar. But it quickly faltered when she realized that Mason was gone. Puzzled, she looked around, most of the place had started to empty out, but she was unable to spot him anywhere. The sweatshirt he had thrown on the back of his stool was gone as well, and she could feel the butterflies in her stomach start to fade away.
Behind her, a bartended had reached out and tapped her on the shoulder. Freya turned, and was surprised to see the woman holding out an Angry Orchard.
“That guy you were talking to? He asked me to give you this…”
Confused, Freya mumbled her thanks and took the bottle from her, slumping back down onto her seat and sighed softly. As she placed the drink down on the bar, she realized that the label started to peel back once she moved her hand. Her eyes widened when she saw there was writing there.
‘It was great meeting you tonight. I hope I can see you again.’
He signed off and wrote his number at the end. The gesture was cute, and despite her disappointment, she still tore the note off. She didn’t know why she had expected more. She had only just met the guy, but for some reason, it just felt like it was missing something. With the note now safe in her pocket, she threw a few bills on the bar and grabbed her coat. Making her way outside, she went to start on her walk back home, when she heard someone yell out her name. Surprised, she looked around.
And there he was. Standing out in the lot, looking around as he tried to make his way through the small crowd. When he finally saw her, Freya saw his face light up. The butterflies were returning, and she held her breath as he approached her. He didn’t ask, didn’t hesitate. He just leaned down and covered her lips with his own.
It was a combination of the butterflies and the whiskey, and it made her head spin. No, it wasn’t her head…the world was moving below her feet…
To say that the kiss was perfect? Now that would have been the biggest understatement of her life. But it was definitely the start of something…