Sophie had just come into The Cave and was making her way to the professor’s reserved booth at the back, where each Tuesday they would sit, drink, and go over the manuscript of his novel-in-progress. The Cave was the college town’s most popular bar, a Quonset hut with an arched corrugated steel roof and exposed overhead plumbing lines, heating ducts, lights, and ceiling fans, all painted black to create the feeling of a cave.
Jonathan and Leaf had positioned themselves at the far end of the bar, on the only two stools along the short service “L”, giving them a clear view of the entire room. From this position, they could watch games being played at the three pool tables along the far wall, watch the couples eating dinner at the tables near the bar, and most important, watch Sophie enter.
Tonight she was wearing low-cut jeans and a too-small red sweater pulled tight and buttoned over a white crop-top jersey, her midriff bare, her breasts pushed upward into twin crescent moons. Her navel was pierced, the small diamond stud a twinkling beacon in the dimly lit bar.
She was not overly tall, about Jonathan’s height, with black shoulder-length hair she kept pulled back behind her ears, the left pierced by three tiny silver hoops, the right by just one. With full, pouting lips and skin toasted light by the heated union of her Italian father and Argentinean mother, she was not a woman who needed or used makeup, giving her a child-woman beauty, a rare blend of innocence and sexuality that was not lost on the goat-footed men at the bar.
As she approached, they leered at her, some making whispered comments to their bar mates, some just stopping their conversations to gawk, and one, who fancied himself a player, delivering a pickup line more awkward than the toothpick he rolled from one corner of his mouth to the other. And as she passed, man after man would lean back on his stool to admire her ass, his head shaking in wonder and appreciation, his mouth forming a perfect little O.
Ooh, baby, gimme some.
Jonathan watched her, motionless, eyes tracking her as she made her way along the bar toward him. Leaf was right, of course: her body was amazing. But when she stopped midway to say hello to a girl at a nearby table, and flashed that smile, he became a hopelessly lost arctic explorer searching for the Pole but finding oblivion in a blizzard of white.
Leaf was right again: Jonathan was in love.
She continued down the bar, smiling at some, waving off others, never noticing Jonathan. As she passed by, he inhaled deeply, glorying in her scent of cinnamon and nutmeg.
“Jesus, Lord,” Leaf said. “What was that?”
“Man, that nose of yours almost sucked the beer out of my glass.”
“Come on, it wasn’t that obvious.”
“No? Well, if you made an impression on her, it was probably as Vacuum Boy.”
“Only if looking back and laughing is noticing.”
“Oh, shit, I have to get out of here.”
“Go if you want to, I’m finishin’ this beer.”
Jonathan stood up as casually as he could and, without looking back at Sophie’s booth, walked slowly out of the bar and down the street, stopping briefly a block away to look up at the sky and shout, “Shit!”
Excerpt from: Skeleton: A Bare Bones Mystery
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