Here's an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Redemptive Heart. This is a first draft and may change over time. In the meantime, enjoy!
Carla sat at the bar nursing her third vodka gimlet, oblivious to the world around her. She had become a regular at a local bar known as Cory’s Place. Jason, the bartender, had taken a liking to her, and not just for pity’s sake. Somehow, he knew that her sardonic wit and often sadistic sarcasm was camouflage for a deeper pain. Yet, there was something underneath her sadness; something great, something pure. He was sure of it. He wished that he could do more than just inebriate her pain. She reminded him of his own daughter and he felt the urge, no, the need to watch over her.
“Carla. Shouldn’t you be calling someone right about now?”
“Jason. Shouldn’t you be minding your own business right about now?”
“You are my business if you’re too drunk to drive, which I’m sure you are.”
“Yeah, well, there’s no one to call. So you’ll just have to pray for me that I make it home safe.” She traced the rim of her glass which held the remains of drink number three with her forefinger.
“Why don’t you turn over your keys and I’ll call you a cab? I’ll even pay the fare.”
“How kind of you, Mr. Bartender. My knight in shining armor. Concerned about my welfare, Papa Jason? Tell you what. Pour me another vodka gimlet and maybe we can discuss this cab fixation you have.”
“I don’t think―”
“You heard the lady, Papa Jason. Now, don’t be rude. Pour her another, and hit me as well.” Jason turned in the direction of a voice he recognized as another one of his regulars. Derrick was tall, slender and good looking enough where the ladies didn’t mind his company. Especially if he was buying drinks, which he usually did whenever a lovely one peaked his interest.
“All right,” Jason relented. “One vodka gimlet and a tequila shot coming right up.”
“Thank you…” Carla waited for her patron to reveal his name.
“Derrick. Thank you, but I can take care of myself.”
“I’m sure you can, but a beautiful sister like you shouldn’t have to…take care of herself, I mean.” Derrick smiled and winked as he beckoned Jason to bring her drink.
“Well, one more can’t hurt, I guess.” Really? “Thank you, again, Derrick. I’m Carla.”
“Pleased to finally meet you, Carla.”
“Finally?” She knew she was drunk, but not that drunk. Do I know this guy? “I don’t think we’ve ever met.”
“You come here about as often as I do, Carla. I’ve been watching you.”
“You’re not a stalker, are you, Derrick?”
“No, but you’re a creature of habit.”
“Oh.” He’s cute. Charming, but an obvious player. Gotta keep my guard up. “Well…okay, but finding out that someone’s been watching you without your knowledge…you have to admit…that’s kind’a creepy. I mean, please don’t take offense, but a sister can’t be too careful, nowadays.” Who am I kidding? I haven’t been careful since…
“Oh, most definitely. I agree, Carla, but my man here will vouch for me, won’tcha, bro?” Jason shot Derrick an I could care less about your mess look and continued to clean the glasses. Carla chuckled at his indifference and finished her drink.
“Well, Derrick, thanks again for the drink, but I think I’ll be on my way. I’ve got work tomorrow. G’night.” She got up to leave but had to steady herself from the Olympic swim meet going on inside her head.
“You sure you don’t need a ride? I mean, I’m not implying that you’re drunk or anything like that.” The sarcasm was not lost on Carla and she flashed a fake smile. “I could take you home if you like.”
“I’m fine.” No you’re not. “Besides, if you take me home, what will I do with my car?” At least you won’t crash it.
“Yes, you are fine, but you still shouldn’t drive. Someone could get hurt, you know.”
“I can manage, Derrick.” No, really. You can’t.
“Tell you what, Miss Carla. How about we go to that all night Coney Island, Zophars. It’s right down the street and we can both have some terrible coffee to sober us up. That way, you can make it to which ever place you decide to go.” He smiled.
Pretty confident, aren’t you, Playa’ Playa’? “What the hell. Okay, Derrick, you win.” So much for being careful. It’s not as though you don’t know how this is gonna end. “See ya, Jason,” she said, heading towards the front of the bar.
“Later.” Jason replied, trying not to betray his concern. Whatever she’d gone through, he thought to himself, it had caused her to give up on living and to ignore her better judgment. “Take care of yourself, Carla,” he called to her as she disappeared into the night.
Derrick glanced back at Jason and with his signature wink, flashed a sly smile and followed Carla out the door.