The day before the grand opening, the only opening the bar would have, and the small sign advertising cocktail hour had been removed. The social circles of the town were buzzing with gossip of what they had heard about the restaurant. Each clique seemed to have heard something that made the bar most applicable to them, with one twenty-something woman even going as far as to say that the VIP room was covered in pink.
While none of this buzz was necessarily true, it was all welcomed by the employees of Ducante’s pub, who today were few and far between inside the silent, dim interior. If the world was buzzing outside, it was barely twittering inside. In fact, it was barely scratching – and the scratching, incidentally, was coming from a nervous looking man, an almost wasted pen, and a stack of papers at the end of the bar.
Behind the bar, the short haired second in command was polishing the glasses for the umpteenth time. Openings usually went quite smoothly; but she had one position yet to fill, and with the day looming… it made her nervous. The ambiguous ads and vague requests she had put out had received little, if any, attention from the people who’s attention it was so imperative she grab. It was now, in the final hour, that she found herself hoping for a miracle.
The last thing she wanted was to have to stay in this podunk town to do the job until Ducante could find someone.
“Make sure you sign all of those,” Maya said to the nervous boy on the counter. “With the position of head bartender comes big responsibility, Jeremy.”
“You mean big confidentiality,” he muttered. Maya just laughed, and as Jeremy turned the page, the scratching continued. The addition of the occasionally squeaky clean glass made a sort of odd rhythm that was not interrupted for several minutes. That is, it was not interrupted until the front door pushed open.
Jeremy looked up curiously; Maya put the glass down, sliding one hand for some anonymous protection beneath the bar. But as the person responsible for pushing open the door stepped into the light of one of the wall sconces, she sighed. “Jason. You didn’t tell me you were coming.”
“Hey, Maya,” the man said, tilting his head to the side and offering a winning smile.
“You should’ve told me you were coming!” Maya said, tossing down her bar rag and dashing to throw her arms around the fall form of this ‘Jason.’ “I haven’t seen you since…”
“Since you started working,” he said, his lips twitching. “Its been a long time since you moved to Selvmar.”
Maya shrugged, tugging at a wayward strand of hair in an avoidant fashion. “Selvmar was the logical place for me. You know, after… everything.”
Jason shrugged, crossing his arms. “And now you’re here.”
“Only until the day after tomorrow, then I’m back to Selvmar. I’m just helping out my employer,” she answered with a shrug.
“Your employer,” Jason said slowly, rolling the word on his tongue experimentally. His eyes moved around the empty bar, falling at last on Jeremy, who jerked his eyes back to his papers. “Well. I’ve heard a lot of interesting things about this bar and this… employer.”
“Oh yeah?” Maya asked, crossing her arms to mirror his position. “And who’s telling you all of this?”
“Amanda,” he said smartly. “She told me a lot of things about the kind of bar this is. And she told me that you’re still looking for help.”
At the bar, Jeremy paused in his scratching.
“Oh. Jason…” Maya began, her voice softer than it usually was within these walls. “Jason, I don’t think this is quite the right environment for you.”
“Are you trying to say I’m not – ” his eyes jerked to Jeremy again, “-qualified for the position?”
Maya ground her teeth together. “Jeremy, you better finish signing those papers if you’re going to stay in this room.” The scratching started up again. “I know you’re qualified. You don’t think you’ve showed me everything you can do? You’re more qualified than I am, it’s just – ”
“Damn right I’m more qualified than you are. I’m the one that taught you how to Make them all. Look, I’m tired of tracking and hunting, and I don’t want to go to Selvmar, and this is the only place where I’m not working in some dead-end human cubicle job and – ”
“This just isn’t your speed, Jason, it’s nothing personal – ”
” – of course it’s personal – ”
“It’s – ”
“Maya,” said a calm, even voice from just beyond the bar. Gregory Ducante had made his way down the stairs that connected his second floor office with the bar, “Maya, Maya. I see no reason why you should deny this man a job, should he want one. He does appear quite qualified.”
Next to the bar door, Jason froze. His jaw seemed to slacken, and then tense. “You – ! You’re… you’re a…” His lip twitched, frozen somewhere between surprise and snarl.
At the bar, Jeremy was hurriedly signing the final five pages. He wanted nothing more than to leave this uncomfortable situation, to flee this strange twilight zone of a bar to the home where everything was normal.
“Yes, my boy,” Gregory Ducante said, “I am exactly what you think I am. But that shouldn’t stop you from a fantastic business opportunity, now, should it?” He stretched out his hand and offered a friendly wink; and as he did, his chocolate brown eyes did something very funny indeed. They flashed from a deep chocolate brown to a vivid red, and then back again.
It took no more than that instant for Jeremy to finish signing the last page of his confidentiality agreement; and he spent no more than that throwing down the pen and marching out the door without another word.
He would not know what happened after that wink; not for twenty four blessedly normal hours, at least.