Micah placed the beer in front of her, but turned his gaze towards a stranger seated at the end of the bar. Lilah’s eyes followed his gaze, and the stranger raised his glass in a toast. She sighed, and turned back to Micah, giving him a slight nod of appreciation. Today of all days. Only a stranger would be stupid enough to try to approach her today. Well, he’d figure it out soon enough.

Lilah sat at the bar, nursing a 12-year Scotch, like she had every August 4th for the last four years. She drank Scotch not because she liked it, but because it was her late husband’s favorite. She trusted Micah to bring her whatever was best, and most expensive, and didn’t really care what brand it was or even how it tasted. It was simply in honor of Michael.

Lilah wasn’t much of a drinker – in fact, most of the time she detested the stuff. She wasn’t a teetotaler, she just plain didn’t like it. It went straight to her head, and tonight she felt the effects of her drink lurch her forward into a place she didn’t exactly enjoy going. But she went anyway. The heel of her boots were hooked onto the footrest of her barstool, and she felt like if they were to slip off, she would slide right off the chair and become completely unmoored. Her boots on the chair were the only thing connecting her to her sham of a normal life. It had been four years, but it hadn’t gotten any easier. Especially around August 4th.

Knowing it wouldn’t get any easier the longer she sat there, she polished off the rest of the pricey liquor in one deft gulp and started on the beer the stranger had bought for her. No use in letting it go to waste.

“You looked like you could use a beer chaser,” a voice said. It came from above her and to the right. Lilah said nothing. Micah sidled closer, pretending to wipe down the counter.

“I’m Tom,” the voice said, this time coming from her right, but ear level. He had taken a seat on the barstool next to her. Still Lilah said nothing, but she took a hefty draft from her glass.

“Hey, can you recommend a decent place for dinner?” he continued.

Micah inhaled sharply, as if to warn the man, but it was too late, and there was nothing for it but to let Lilah handle it herself. He sidled his way back down to the other end of the bar, as if to take cover.

“Look, I don’t know what you want from me, but I’m in no mood for company tonight,” Lilah had turned to her seatmate and begun her speech. Her eyes were as hard and grey as granite, and they were complete antitheses to the warm and friendly tone of her new friend’s face. “Thanks for the beer and everything, but I highly suggest that you take this opportunity to shove off and hit the McDonald’s across the street for your chicken nuggets and head back to your hotel, like a good tourist.”

The stranger laughed. His laughter wasn’t harsh, or vindictive. Rather, it was soft and friendly, even though he’d just received a world-class brush off. “I understand,” he said evenly. “I had been warned. I just thought you could use a beer. Things do get better, Lilah, eventually. If you let them.” He stood up from his stool, the wooden feet scraping the floor as he pushed away from the bar. Lilah could hear the jingle of keys as he pulled them out of his pocket. “Micah has my number,” he said. “Let me know if you need a ride home.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, but before she could stand up and punch him in the jaw, he had left the bar.

Written March 2018
©2018-2019, Andrea C. Neil