|She entered the hole-in-the-wall bar with a look that dared anyone to approach tonight. Glancing at her watch, Kyra wasn’t sure 4:45 p.m. was technically considered ‘night’.
“The usual?” the bartender asked as she slid onto the stool.
“Make it a double, Rob." Her body relished finally getting off its feet.
“Your usual is a double.”
“Two times two. Figure it out.” A twist of sarcasm was mixed with good-natured teasing.
“Kids givin' you a hard time today?” He fixed the drink without looking at the bottles.
“Like you wouldn’t believe, and I hit construction drivin' to this ghost town. And to top it off, I have to go in early tomorrow to show some newbie around.”
She felt good to be somewhere they knew her only on the surface and waited on her for a change. Thursdays were her 'escape the world' days. No carpools, no little league, no ballet classes, and the kids went to their dad's house for the night, allowing her a little time to recoup and face the world again. Plenty of things still needed to be done at the house, but she'd indulge herself for an hour or two; Sipping her drink, her eyes closed to let the poison work its magic, just taking the edge off. Rob left her alone; he knew the routine. Kyra would be flashing that amazing smile, and her cerulean eyes would become twinkling sapphires in no time.
“The next drink's on me.”
She hadn’t even noticed the dark-headed man sitting a couple of seats to her right.
“Look, thanks, but I’m not interested . . .” Kyra began her usual refusal. Rob hid his grin from behind the bar; he knew this play by heart.
The man, undaunted, got up and walked over to Kyra. Holding out a well-manicured hand, he introduced himself. “Jason Rice.”
Kyra rolled her eyes as she shook his hand. “Ms. Fox, I mean, Kyra. Kyra Fox. And honestly, I’m not in the mood for this song and dance, so save yourself the trouble.”
“Not searchin’ for trouble, just a little conversation.”
“Whatever. Sit. Maybe Rob’ll talk to you.”
“You know, Ms. Fox, your words could blister a man’s heart.”
“It’s Kyra, and I have higher aspirations in life.” She didn’t even look at him.
“So . . . . Kyra, what’s got you in such an agreeable mood this fine Thursday?”
“That’s your best line?” She raised an eyebrow, but at least she finally met his eyes. She softened a little, unsure whether it was the alcohol taking affect or the look in his deep green eyes. “Just a rough day on the job. No big deal - tomorrow’s a new day and all that jazz.”
“Understandable. What kind of work do you do?”
Rob’s ears perked up. This was his favorite part. She always made up a different job and lied with such ease; it never ceased to impress him. She once confided in him that it was because if she heard the same old teacher/student fantasy line again, she might literally kill the man. And apparently, jail wasn’t a goal of hers. Another part of it was privacy. It was the same reason she drove twenty miles to a hole-in-the-wall town to have a drink. Teachers are held to a certain level of standards, and even if it was just an innocent drink, it wasn’t smart to partake in the same county you teach, especially in the Bible Belt of America.
“I own a pig farm north of here about thirty miles,” Kyra answered. Without missing a beat, she continued. “The market is down, and the cost of feed is up. Can’t find good help to save my soul.”
Jason stared at her while he sipped his drink, trying to get his mind around the image of this petite, beauty of a woman slopping pigs or whatever it was they did on a pig farm. He let his mind wander, picturing her in a Daisy Duke outfit running the ranch. The smile on his face was impossible to hide, even if he wanted to.
“Well, I guess we know who brings the bacon home at your house.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at the stupid joke. “You know . . . Jason . . . It's okay when you have such an absurd idea to keep it as an unexpressed thought.” Her sarcasm bit, but her laugh overrode any malice.
“Seriously, can I buy you another?”
The tension was waning, and she was enjoying having some adult conversation for a change.
“No, thanks. One’s my limit, but feel free to stay and talk. I’ll try to be nice. What do you do for work?”
Jason paused, caught up again at how lovely she looked. Not perfect, but so real and with a spirit she didn’t try to squelch.
“I’m an architect. Just in town for a couple of days finalizing a project in the city. I decided to do some sight seeing, check out the history of the state, and somehow the road led me here.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy your stay.” She sounded softer, actually sincere. The stresses of the day were wearing off.
Talk continued easily. Everything from childhood to politics was fair game. Rob watched as she charmed the stranger without trying. Some innocent flirting sparked, but it meant nothing to either of them. Tonight the conversation was enough; it was what they both needed.
Kyra smiled at the realization of the change in her mood. She found it remarkable that a few laughs, good conversation, and a strong drink could do a lot to improve the day.
“Kyra, doll, it’s almost seven,” Rob said interrupting her thoughts.
“Oh gosh! Thanks, Rob.” She leaned over kissing him on the cheek.
Her attention turned back to Jason. “Rob's so good to me. Always reminds me not to keep the pigs waiting. It’s hell to feed them in the dark. Again, I hope you enjoy your stay in our neck of the woods.” She shook his hand this time with friendship instead of disdain.
Both men watched her waltz out of the bar.
“So, what’re you building in the city?” Rob asked while wiping down the counter.
“Huh? Oh,” Jason chuckled. “I’m not really an architect. I actually just got a job in a small town about twenty minutes from here. I hate telling women I’m a teacher. Somehow in their eyes, it’s not a noble profession for a man.”
A look of confusion came over Jason’s face as Rob could no longer contain his laughter.