Sample – The Lipstick Lounge

“Where you wanna go?” Jeremy asked, all red-cheeked smiles as the alcohol lifted him off the street.  He was aiming past Beyond the Edge, the outer limit of the bars we knew in the neighborhood.

“I’m following you,” Kyle laughed, rushing ahead of Jeremy.  I jogged to catch up as we made our way past the gravel parking lot of the Beyond and kept on walking, flipping the antennas of the cars lining the road.

“What about here?”

We stopped in front of the purple-painted building, a one-story bar with neon in the window declaring the place “The Lipstick Lounge.”  The windows were darkly tinted, though we could make out blurry representations of beer signs and what I thought was a jukebox.

“Never been here,” I offered.

“I think this is a bar for, you know, girls who like girls.”  Jeremy was nearly blushing just saying it.  His upbringing must have been traditional to say the least.

“I, for one, am curious,” Kyle said, pushing the door open and leading us inside, though the look that passed between Jeremy and I suggested that we were not as enthused as Kyle.

It felt like being behind enemy lines.  There was no Hollywood needle scratch when we entered, complete with all conversation skidding to a halt to register our entrance, but it was obvious from our first steps into the smoky interior that three guys out for a night of fun were not the usual clientele.

The bar was against the far wall, the shelves supporting three dozen bottles of different flavors lit from beneath to give everything an ethereal glow.  The bartender was a little thick around the middle, with heavy breasts showcased in a drink-stained halter, her round ass and thick thighs in black denim.  Her hair was purple, shaved on one side, short on top, and she had a series of earrings running the length of her left ear, including a chain that followed her cheek to the piercing in her nose.  I could see full-sleeve tattoos on each arm, too, though not enough detail to make out the subject of her decorations.

Of the ten or so seats at the bar, only three were taken, one by two women who were clearly there together and occupied by their own conversation, another girl in her early 30s maybe on the other side.  There were roughly fifteen tables in the belly of the room, near the neon-infused jukebox I’d seen from outside, and about a third of those were occupied by couples and groups.  The music playing was all guitar-based singer-songwriter stuff, which I kind of liked, but I could tell Jeremy and Kyle were out of their element.

We bellied up to the bar and took our seats there, pushing aside an empty bottle and napkin from a previous customer, along with the very full ashtray.  Our bartender, she of the purple hair, stubbed out a cigarette and exhaled in our direction.

“Get you boys something?”

“What do you have on tap-?”

I began, but Kyle interrupted, hammering his palms on the countertop.

“My good lady, we are three young men out for a night of adventure.  I was hoping you’d be kind enough to recommend something for us.”

A flit of a smile pulled at the corner of the bartender’s mouth.  “We have something special, but I don’t know if you boys are up for it.”

“Oh, I assure you, we are made of stern stuff.  Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.”

“Then you’ll have no problems at all.”  The smile was still there, but there was something cruel beneath it.

“Maybe we should just go,” I said, taking Kyle by his bicep.  He shrugged me off quickly.

“I think if you want to be a sopping pussy, you can go without me.  You going to have a drink with me, Tommy, or do you need to get back so you can change your tampon?  No offense,” he added, glancing at the bartender.

“None taken.”

“What about you, J?” Kyle locked eyes with Jeremy, on the other side of me, who seemed to shrink on his bar stool.

“I’m good, man.  Just want to get a drink and maybe call it a night.”

“Yeah,” Kyle mused.  “Yeah, maybe we’ll head home after this.  Just one drink, Tommy.  Nothing to get worked up over.”

“That’s right,” the bartender repeated, “Nothing to be worried about.  You boys drink up.  Enjoy yourselves.  That’s what it’s all about right?”

“Exactly,” Kyle grinned.  “What is your name, anyway?”

“Darby,” the bartender replied.  “And I couldn’t be more pleased you picked tonight to come in, right Helen?”

The younger woman at the end of the bar nodded.  “A real piece of luck.”

My eyes remained on the girl named Helen.  She was slim and very pretty, in a blue dress that showed off sheer-stockinged legs and tall, matching blue heels.  The top of the dress had a deep scooped neck and I could see the top of her cleavage as she turned toward us.

“You look a little lost,” she said to me, seeing my fixation on her.

“I think I am,” I laughed, and she joined in.

“Don’t worry, honey.  Everybody fits in here, sooner or later.”

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