North of Light(3)

By: J.M. Paul

“How can you not like Christmas? It’s magical, spiritual, and festive, and everyone’s just a little bit happier.” His smile turns gleeful.

“It’s just … not my favorite anymore.”

I used to love Christmas, but ever since things drastically changed two years ago, December is the worst month of the year for me.

“Anymore?” Turkey Head’s eyebrows pinch together, and all traces of his smile are gone.

“Mmhmm,” I hum as if I were distracted, but I’m so totally not. I’m completely tuned in to my idiocy of letting too many words that welcome questions to exit out of my stupid mouth.

I start jerking my pen across the page to give the illusion that I’m busy. I don’t want to talk about that horrible period in my life, especially with Butterball.

It doesn’t work.

“Tell me about your anymore, Noel.” Turkey Head places his hand over mine to stop my insistent scrawling, and our gazes clash together. His expression tells me he’s concerned, but more than that, it also says he genuinely cares about my answer, and that scares me.

I always hear bartenders make good therapists, but this isn’t occurring. I don’t talk about what happened to me, especially to hot strangers who serve alcohol and make my lady bits tingle in pleasant ways.

“There’s nothing to say. I just don’t care for this season. End of story.” I shrug again.

“Bullshit,” he says bluntly. “Anymore suggests you used to like it, so something changed your mind. Tell me.” He squeezes my hand. “I’m a good listener.”

Sighing heavily, I slouch in my seat. “Don’t you have work to do?”

His attention doesn’t waver from mine. “Sure, but that doesn’t matter right now. Talk to me.”

“Why do you care?” I pull my fingers out from under his grasp and tuck a lock of brunette hair behind my ear.

“Because, when a beautiful girl sits at my bar with deep sadness emanating from her gorgeous brown eyes, I want to know what put it there and what I can do to help her.” The concern in his voice is evident.

I scoff. Beautiful girl, my ass.

Darting my eyes around the room, I know he really is as blind as a bat. All of the women in here are dressed to the nines, and their hair and makeup are immaculate. And then there’s me. I’m in an artfully worn gray sweatshirt, burgundy scarf, shredded jeans, knee-high leather boots, and my hair and makeup are most definitely not perfect. I’m here to support a friend, not to impress people.

“Well, Turkey Head—”

“Turkey head?” He interrupts.

I gesture towards the stuffed bird he’s wearing as a hat and he smirks.

“Your Spidey bar-therapist sense is failing you. Now, run along”—I wave my hand at him—“and bother someone who wants your attention.”

I’m put off by his ability to read me so quickly.

The corner of his lip lifts, and he nods his head. “Ah …”

“Ah what?”

“You’re a girl with no filter. Whatever runs through your head pops right out of your mouth.” He bends closer to me. “That’s my favorite type of people. You always know what they’re thinking.”

“Great,” I say sarcastically. “You can leave now.”

Butterball flashes his dimples before he knocks against the bar top and heads down the way to harass some other unsuspecting customer.

The loud chatter around the room is comforting after living in so much silence, but I’m oblivious to the actual happenings around me. I know people are eating, drinking, and flirting. I’ve seen the mating call a million times over, and it makes me wonder if it’s the chase everyone’s after or if anything substantial ever develops from the hunt.

My hand is in a furious motion across my lined pages when a glass slaps against the dark granite, interrupting me.

“What the hell?” I lift my fiery brown eyes to see Turkey Head smirking. My attention drifts to the green drink still in his grip.

“This is for you.” He pushes the concoction closer, and a slosh of liquid splats on the bar.

“Wrong customer. I didn’t order anything.”

I start writing again, but he plucks the pen from my hand and sets it on the paper.

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