Chapter 25

Before Camille (or anyone else at the table who might possibly have had a reaction to Mary’s declaration) could say a word, Alice materialized out of the crowd next to their table.

“Isn’t this a surprise?” Alice said, though the girls at the table noticed a lack of descriptors such as “good” or “pleasant.” Still she greeted them with a round of hugs that were made awkward by the height of the stools paired with the relative shortness of Camille and Mary. “What brings you all out?”

“We wanted to come show support for you and Roy on your first day of work,” Mary quickly explained. “Angela was a pleasant addition.”

“Get ready for another then. Guess who Roy is bartending with?” Alice prompted. “And Mary, no cheating.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Um, I’ll say Violet,” Vince ventured. “She seems like she would enjoy bartending.”

“A well-reasoned attempt,” Alice complimented. “But wrong.”

“Alex? No, he would have mentioned something to us,” Camille said, talking herself out of her own attempt.

“How about you just tell us,” Mary encouraged.

Alice stuck her tongue out at her dormmate in presumed retribution for killing her fun, then complied. “It’s Chad. He and Roy are both new bartenders here.”

“Darn, I should have guessed that. I did see him go talk to Mr. Mears on the first day,” Vince chided himself.

“A lot of people talked to Mr. Mears,” Camille reminded him. “I never would have guessed Chad either.”

“It is surprising,” Mary concurred. “So, how is the first day, or I should say night, going?”

“It’s still a little early, but if the last hour is any indication of what to expect then I definitely don’t think it’s going to be boring,” Alice told her. “I’ve sold like forty shots without doing much besides walking around.”

“That’s really impressive,” Vince said.

Alice gave him a light shrug. “I think Angela has tripled that. Then again, she’s more proactive than I am.”

Almost perfectly on cue, Angela appeared across the bar, visible because she had leapt on top of a table. She held up one of the test-tube shots from her stay, one glowing a bright, toxic looking color, and began to speak. Though the distance was far from what would stay audible in a club (Read: greater than five feet away) it was still clear from context clues that she was making some sort of a toast. When she concluded, there was a loud holler of agreement and the large cluster of males congregated around her lifted their shots up toward the ceiling, then they all downed them as a group. Angela let out a yelp of enjoyment, took steps toward the edge of the table, and leapt into the arms of one of the more muscular young men around her. In many bars this would have been an unacceptable spectacle, however given the rowdy nature of Six-Shooter and the number of shots she’d just sold, no manager was going to come running to chastise her actions.

“Yeah, so, it looks like I’ve still got a lot to learn,” Alice said once the Angela Show had concluded.

“I am so incredibly glad Mr. Mears didn’t send me to interview here,” Mary mumbled, more to herself than the others.

“Well, we don’t want you fall behind from talking to us. How about a round for the table?”

This suggestion was met with staggering silence, because it had come from the mouth of Vince Reynolds. All three women stared at him, eyes wide as each contemplated various scenarios involving doppelgangers and mind control.

“What? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in these situations? I’ve been trying to learn a little more about blending in since we’re working with the public. Did I screw up?” Vince’s own face was earnest and concerned.

“No, Vince, that’s what most people would do. Then again, none of us at the table are big drinkers, so I think it’s okay if you skip that social expectation on this go round,” Mary said at last.

“I’ll take one,” Camille piped up. Between the noise, the people, and the giant embarrassment of Mary telling her another man was staring at her, Camille would likely have tried elephant tranquilizer if it could help her mellow out.

“Me too,” Vince said. His own enthusiasm came more from a desire to support Alice than a need to suppress anxiety.

“In that case I’ll volunteer to drive Camille’s car home, and abstain,” Mary said. “Assuming that’s okay with you, Camille?”

Camille nodded her agreement so enthusiastically it nearly knocked the scrunchie holding together her ponytail out of her hair.

“Then three it is,” Alice declared, passing one each to Vince and Camille while keeping one for herself. “I carpooled with Roy, plus there is no way I’m missing a chance to do a shot with these two. What are the odds I’ll get that chance again?”

The trio downed their drinks and Vince handed Alice a wad of bills. They chatted for a bit longer, then Vince had to beg off after asking directions to the restroom. As soon as he was gone Mary motioned emphatically for Alice to hop into his chair, then leaned in and whispered conspiratorially.

“Your turn to play a guessing game. Want to know who is getting some male attention?”

“Ugh, if it’s me please don’t tell me. The looks some of these guys give me makes me want to shower for days,” Alice replied.

“No, but there is a bartender you should stay clear of. We’ll talk about that later. Anyway, the answer is Camille,” Mary replied.

“Oooooh. Did Vince finally realize that he has one of the cutest girls in class right under his nose?”

Camille’s response was to blush, shake her head, set down cash, and take another of the shots from Alice’s holder. The first had taken a bit of edge off, so she was hoping another would finish the job of settling her nerves.

“Nope, a different boy,” Mary replied. “And a pretty cute one, in my humble opinion. I think with a little eye contact he might get up the nerve to come ask her to dance.”

“I will do my absolute best to keep my eyes rooted on this table,” Camille decided.

“That is your prerogative,” Alice agreed with her. “But, just let this mull around a bit. Men, or at least men our age, are kind of stupid. I won’t say they only want what they can’t have, but reminding them of the fact that other people want something they’re dragging their feet on can definitely give them a good kick in the ass toward action.”

“Dancing with another guy was what finally gave Hershel the guts to make a move on me,” Mary added. “It wasn’t intentional, however I certainly didn’t mind the results.”

“Anyway, I need to go sell more of these things, and Mary, don’t push her too much. If she doesn’t want to flirt, that’s okay,” Alice said. “As for you Camille, just think about what we said. I’ll swing back by when I get free.” With that she was gone, the only proof she’d ever been there a few empty colored test tubes and a small girl with pale blonde hair and a growing alcoholic buzz.