By Gale Dumont
Another day, another night, another shiny costume and pair of shoes designed to murder her feet. Rosemary scowled as she pushed open the door to the bar. She was instantly enveloped by a cloud of smoke and the bitter tang of alcohol. Her hand curled around the door frame; she made it relax and walked inside, ignoring the hoots and calls from the other patrons. Nothing she hadn't heard before.
"Jack Daniels," she ordered, sliding onto a barstool. "Straight. No water, no ice, nothing. Just Jack. And keep them coming."
The bartender leered at her. "Big drink for such a little girl."
Rosemary didn't answer. She just downed the shot and thumped the glass back down on the bar. The bartender narrowed his eyes, but poured her another. She nodded her thanks and sipped the second, relishing the fire in her stomach.
"Bad day?" piped up a voice from her elbow.
Annoyed, Rosemary turned.
Sitting on the stool beside hers was a woman, small and slight, with curly blonde hair and the biggest blue eyes she'd ever seen. She was nursing a beer -- one of many, from the row of bottles set nearest the one she had her hand wrapped around. "I wouldn't say that," Rosemary said slowly, letting her eyes trail over the other woman's body. Small, but built. Nice. "What about you? Boyfriend dump you?"
Blue eyes clouded over. "'Boyfriend' is too strong a term for Charlie. Still got dumped, though." She took another pull off of her beer, tipping her head back.
Rosemary held up her glass. "To men, then. To hard bodies and even harder hearts."
"Amen," the other woman said, and clinked her bottle against the glass.
"So do you have a name, or should I just call you Random Depressed Blonde Woman I Met In A Bar?"
"Dixie." Rosemary ran her eyes down her body again. "Suits you. I'm Rosemary. Glad to meet you." She finished off her shot and motioned to the bartender, who filled it again. "You want another?"
Dixie finished off the rest of her beer in one swallow. "Please."
An hour later, it was as if they'd known each other their entire lives. Dixie was already drunk; Rosemary was well on her way to being there. She sipped at her drink -- somewhere along the line, she'd switched to Scotch -- and peered over it at the smaller woman. "So let me get this straight," she said. "This Charles guy dumps his fiance and runs off to Las Vegas with you. The two of you have a grand old time, and then one day he wakes up and decides, 'Hey. I think I'll head back to New Mexico and see if she'll take me back.'" She shook her head in wonderment. "Asshole."
"You said it," Dixie said, nodding. Probably not the best thing to do in her condition; she almost fell off the barstool. "I mean, it's not like I asked him to take me with him; he just did it. But I know, I just know, that I'm gonna come across as the bad guy in this."
"That's the way it goes," Rosemary said, staring moodily into her drink. "A man breaks a woman's heart, and he gets away scot-free. She sneered and took another sip. "If I didn't need 'em, I wouldn't have a thing to do with them."
"Why do you need them?" Rosemary shot her a look. Dixie continued, "I mean, you're smart, you're beautiful -- really, what do you need a man for?"
"Plenty of things. Money, jewelry --"
"Don't you have anything set aside for a rainy day? And if you want jewelry so bad, you can buy some for yourself."
Rosemary smiled darkly, tracing a blood-red nail along the rim of her glass. "It's the attention," she admitted finally. Her smile was black. "I like it. I like it a lot. And not just when I'm on stage. There's...there's something about being the center of attention. I love it. I can't stand to be out of the spotlight. Men are always ready to put me there -- preferably wearing as little as possible -- so I oblige them. I scatch their backs, they scratch mine." She laughed hollowly and took another swallow of Scotch. "Unhealthy, I know. But what am I going to do? Stop?" She shook her head. "That's not for me."
Maybe it was just the drinks, or the shitty lighting in the bar, but Rosemary swore she could see a gleam in Dixie's eyes. "Women can give you attention, too."
"Not the kind I'm talking about," Rosemary said, not unkindly.
"Oh, I know exactly what you're talking about," Dixie purred, sliding her foot up the other woman's leg, the motion hidden behind the legs of the barstools. Rosemary jumped a little. It felt kind of...nice. Not scary at all, which scared her even more. Natural. It was suddenly the most natural thing in the world for this slight little thing, maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet in her dress uniform, to be playing footsie in a crowded no-name bar in the Middle of Nowhere, New Mexico.
"Dixie --" she started.
"My place is closer than yours."
The world was spinning too fast. Dixie was smiling at her, nothing like a girl who'd just been dumped and everything like a woman who hadn't been fucked in a very, very long time. Rosemary tried to remember the last time she'd worn that particular expression on her face.
Huh. That long?
"If we're talking about the same thing," Rosemary said slowly, warning Dixie with her eyes to keep it quiet, "then you should know up front that I don't expect this to be a relationship or anything."
"Of course not." Dixie's face was carefully expressionless. "It's just sex."
"Just sex," Rosemary agreed, and finished off her Scotch. She produced a handfull of bills and left them on the table, motioning to the bartender. "I'll meet you outside in a minute." She spun towards the bathroom, helpfully marked "Misses", and pushed the door open. As filthy as she'd expected, but no one else was inside. Good.
She splashed some water on her face and looked at her expression in the mirror. "This is insane," she said softly, occasionally glancing at the door to make sure that no one else walked in. "She's a woman. You've done some things in your time, Rosemary my girl, but this will take the cake." Another glance at the door, this time picturing a curly-headed blonde standing near the door. "If you go through with it, that is."
And then she remembered the feel of Dixie's foot against her leg, natural as breathing. When was the last time anything had felt that natural? Carver? No. Cavitt? Not a chance. Valenti? She smothered a laugh at that one. No. Definitely not.
All right, truth time: *Nothing* had ever felt that natural. Nothing. Which was the scariest thing about this whole situation. If she knew so little about herself --
"Stop it," she growled, staring at her reflection in the mirror. A small-town girl who hadn't been there in a very long time, and intended to keep it that way. A girl who'd shared more than a few beds in her time; who was even now -- on her time off -- dressed like a Marseilles hooker, clad all in red and strappy heels.
A girl who was going to go out that door with another woman, go home with that other woman, and fuck that other woman's brains out. To hell with what anyone else thought.
Rosemary straightened and brushed a stray strand of hair away from her shoulder, examining herself critically in the cracked mirror. "Better," she said finally, and pushed the door open.