Strange Brew, Part 1

(by, 14 December 1999)

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Strange Brew
Part 1 of 2

He didn't know her name because he had never seen her before. They weren't 
sitting in the smoking section of the Empire Brewery, either. So what made 
him think she was a smoker ?
    Instinct, partly. The way she looked holding the pen. She was certainly 
back here because the kitchen was in this area of the microbrewery, and she 
was working on the sort of paperwork shift managers had to deal with. There 
was just something about her- she might not be smoking now, but she was a smok
er. He was sure of it.
    He watched her stand up- her t-shirt hung off her slightly small but 
spectacularly pert breasts. She was talking to one of the waiters, saying 
something in low tones. There was no smile on her face, and in fact she 
looked tired and a little put off. He watched what she did with the pen and 
that told him all he needed to know. It was held near the tip between her 
first two fingers. She instinctively moved her index finger over the cylinder 
and tapped it twice, then started to lift it towards her mouth. She looked at 
it, realised what she was doing- or so he interpreted the motion, and then 
used it to point to the bar. The waiter skulked off unhappily. She sighed 
heavily, heaving those perfect breasts, and then made a beeline for the door.
    'Did you put any money in the metre ?' he asked Veronica, who looked at 
him and made a face.
    'No. I thought you did.'
    Kenneth laughed. 'You two can be so anal sometimes. They aren't going to 
    'Well,' Nathan said, standing up so quickly that he nearly knocked his 
chair over, 'I don't want to come out of the game at ten o'clock and find 
out some equally anal traffic cop ticketed Roni's car, okay ?'
    He headed out the front door before anyone could tell him he was being 
    It was a lame excuse, after all, but what difference did that make ?    

    She was trying vainly to catch a light. It was cold out and windy, too. 
Typical Rochester weather for Thanksgiving weekend. She thumbed the lighter 
several times, but with no success.
    That was when she started to cry.
    'Let me help you with that,' he said, reaching out. She handed him the 
lighter, cupped her hands, and he deftly lit the Marlboro Lights 100 between 
her pretty fingers. She drew deeply on it, savoured the inhale, arched her 
head, and blew smoke into the waiting air. It should have drifted away 
immediately, but just then the gusty wind died and she was bathed in her own 
    'There you go. Are you okay ?' he asked.
    'Did you come out here just to help me light my cigarette ?' she asked, 
smiling through the trickle of tears.
    'I hate to see a pretty woman cry,' he responded, surprising himself 
with his lack of tongue tie.
    'I'm not crying,' Elisa said.
    He reached out with his index finger and wiped away a tear. 'It must be 
the wind then.'
    'Are you always this forward ?' she asked, but smiling now. She drew on 
the cigarette again, her breasts swelling as she inhaled.
    'No. Usually not. But this seemed like a good time. Want to talk about it 
    'Why did you come out here ?'
    'Would you believe to put change in the metre ?'
    'Not really. Damn, it's cold.'
    'Not exactly t-shirt weather.'
    They walked towards the car, Elisa smoking while Nathan dug in his pocket 
for quarters. He found two. She fished into her pants and pulled out six more.
    'What they say is right. never date someone you work with. Or at least, 
never break up with them.'
    Nathan smiled. 'Words to live by.' He fed the slot and the electronic 
sensor went up in forty minute increments. 'Let me guess. You have tickets to 
the game, but you can't leave if your ex won't stay. But it looks like 
you're the boss, and-'
    She blew a cloud of smoke in his direction and he swore she was watching 
to see how he reacted- and he made sure it was favourable.
    'I'm crying because I made such a terrible decision. I thought Jake was 
a nice guy, but he's an asshole like every other guy. Look, you have a date- 
you don't want to hear this.'
    'I most certainly do. I mean I don't. Uh-'
    This was what Nathan expected from himself, but he worked on recovering. 
'What I mean is that I'm here with my roommate because his date wanted to 
make this a foursome, and I got sucked in. Tammy's not my girlfriend and 
she's not going to be, either. But I do want to hear whatever it is you have 
to say.'
    'Oh, I told Jake I had a date. I have season tickets, you know, and I 
just want him to think I'm moving on. But there's no right answer. As soon 
as I said I had a date, he found some lame reason to say he can't stay and 
cover his tables, even though I make the schedules and can almost never get 
Friday night off. He's being an asshole. Not that it matters. I'm just going 
to go, but I thought-'
    'You don't like being treated like shit. News flash- that's okay. It's 
okay to be selfish sometimes. I'm Nathan by the way.'
    He extended his hand. She was lifting the cigarette to her mouth with her 
left hand, but she extended her right and they shook. It was a warm, sensuous 
    'Elisa. Hey, maybe I'll see you at the game. You'd better get inside,' 
she said, finishing her cigarette. She tossed it into the sewer grate and 
smiled. 'Before they think I stole you.'
    'Steal me any time, Elisa.'
    She took another cigarette from a pack she pulled out of her jeans. he 
helped her light it. She inhaled deeply, leaned over, and kissed him on the 
    'You're sweet.'
    He floated on the memory the smoke back into the brew pub.

    They settled into their seats about five minutes before the game started. 
He was having a good time. Tammy wasn't a potential romantic interest, but 
she was funny and cute with all the best qualities of an eighteen-year old, 
which was to say her eyebrow was pierced but her tongue wasn't. She was a 
little touchy-feely for Nathan's taste, but it was never so bad being hung on 
by an attractive blonde teenager.
    Just before the game started, he felt an hand on his shoulder.
    'Hi, Nat.'
    He turned around and there was Elisa, the seat on her right empty.
    'Hey,' he said, turning around. His friends also turned to see who he 
was talking to and he introduced them all.
    'Who wants a beer ?' he asked, even though they were getting ready to 
bring the lights down.
    Tammy was the first to raise her hand. Veronica passed, but Kenneth said 
he was game.
    'There's a two beer limit,' Elisa said, and then she volunteered her 
services to help. 'It's what I do, after all,' she said when Kenneth looked 
it her somewhat darkly, sensing what was going on.
    Nathan and Elisa climbed out and walked up the stairs together.
    'Feeling any better ?' Nathan asked.
    'A little, I guess. I can't believe our seats are so close together. It 
should be a good game. Albany's got a decent team.'
    They walked out into the lobby and got into the beer line. There was a 
short period of awkward silence, during which Nathan rejected about half a 
dozen openings.
    Finally Elisa found the courage to speak.
    'Would you do me a favour ?' she asked, the nervousness clear in her 
    'After the game, will you come back to the bar with me for a while ?'
    Nathan wanted nothing more than to say yes. But it was getting cold and 
he'd have no way to get home.
    Why would I care ? he wondered.
    'Sure,' he said, again surprising himself with his eagerness. 'Can't 
think of any other plans I have.'
    'Well, it's nice to know that I beat having no plans at all,' she said, 
managing to sound hurt. 'At least I have that to hang my hat on.'
    'I didn't mean it that way,' he said, trying his best to smile. His 
mouth always betrayed him in the end. 'I'd drop any plans I had in a second 
to get a chance to know you better.'
    'Is it my vulnerable, just been hurt personality ?'
    'No,' he said, taking a chance and slipping his arm around his shoulder. 
'It's that you are so totally hot I could die just looking at you.'
    'Did you come outside just to see me ?' she asked. 'Be honest...'
    'Totally honest ?' he asked.
    'I came outside because you are gorgeous, you looked sad, and-'
    He stopped. Something from Riot Poof came to him. '˜you know what you want 
so you go break the terror of the urban spell.' That was how he felt, as 
though he was breaking some long ago cast spell on his honesty. But only 
words could do what he needed to do, and they remained fragile, beyond touch.
    She found them with a single word.
    'And ?'
    'I wanted to see you smoke. I like watching a beautiful woman smoke.'
    'That's so cool,' she said. 'I love smoking. And it feels so sensual to 
me, so it's nice to know that it feels that way for someone else, too.' She 
took his hand in hers and squeezed it tightly. 'I think you and I are going 
to be very good friends, Nathan.'
    They ordered the beer and took it back to their seats, getting four since 
that was the limit. Tammy took hers with most eagerness and the game started. 
Rochester built a 1-0 lead by the end of the first period. By the time the 
horn sounded, Elisa was a part of the group. As soon as the clock hit triple 
zero, Elisa put her hand on Nathan's shoulder. 'I'm going outside for a 
smoke ? Any chance that you want to join me ?'

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