I wasn’t sure I wanted to post this, but why not! Here’s what I wrote yesterday.
The hour has drawn late when I finally close my laptop; I’m surprised the bar’s still open. Josh looks my way, carefully drying the mug he just washed. A quick glance tells me I’m the only patron left.
“So, Ashley? Are you done for the night? I’ve still got a stack of glasses to wash,” he smirks at me, clearly enjoying my annoyance.
“There are machines for that, Josh.”
“I don’t trust machines; even the talking ones are just… cold.”
He shivers slightly. I’ve never known a person so clearly terrified of technology as Josh; despite our obvious differences, I’ve been coming to this bar since college and we’ve become good friends. I sometimes catch him looking at me, an odd expression of fear in his eyes; I suppose he has difficulty trusting me knowing where I work. Not that I blame him. I don’t trust me, not with all the weapons I’ve designed.
Josh comes over, standing next to me as I pack up my laptop. I smile at him when I’ve finished, only to be met by a concerned frown.
“Jesus, Ash. You need to sleep more,” he tells me.
I snort and pick up my bag.
“How can I sleep with all the monster machines around me?” I ask him, knowing full well I’m being an ass.
He sighs and shifts uncomfortably, clearly irritated by my nonchalance.
“I’m sorry, Josh. It’s been… one hell of a week.”
Without responding, he wraps his arms around me in a deep hug. For a moment, I’m still, a bit surprised at this sudden affection. And then I’m melting against him, all the weariness of my life spilling from my eyes. He doesn’t say anything, just holding me as I cry into his shirt, swiftly soaking it with salty tears. He smells like oak barrels and fine whiskey, an odd yet strangely comforting scent. The tears slowly run out and I sniff, pulling back and wiping my eyes, attempting to hide my sorrow with an exasperated grin.
“Stupid stress,” I laugh, sniffling.
Josh looks at me, a strange emotion in those hazel eyes. And then his lips are on mine. My eyes close instinctively, and I clutch his shirt, my hand fisting in that worn fabric. His arms pull me closer and the kiss deepens. My head is dizzy; is this really happening? His reassurance washes over me, bathing me in relaxation and taking all the pain of these weeks away. An alarm triggers in my mind. Why am I relaxing? This isn’t right.
I break the kiss and step back, his arms falling away from me. The feeling slowly vanishes, ebbing away as I take deep breaths.
“What… what was that?” I ask him, my brain working to process this change of events.
“Uhh… I kissed you?” he replies, his eyes betraying the hurt he feels.
“No, no. You were… you were relaxing me. How- how did you do that?”
“What are you talking about?”
My breath is coming faster. What is happening to me? I start to lose focus in my eyes as my blood pounds in my ears. I stumble out of the bar, falling to the pavement. A passing group of guys laugh and help me up.
“Had a bit too much to drink, love?” one of them asks, shouldering my weight for me.
“I- um, yes. Could you please take me home?”
He looks a little surprised, but waves his friends on without him. Josh is in the doorway behind me.
“Ashley-” he starts, but I cut him off.
“Stop, Josh. Please.”
The boy supporting me looks uneasily from Josh to me, shifting awkwardly.
“Um, what should I…,” he asks.
Josh is by my side in seconds, lifting me into his arms.
“I will take Ashley home,” he tells the boy. “Thank you for your assistance.”
“Uh, no problem. Miss, are you gonna be okay?” the boy is unsure; I can tell he is relieved Josh took me.
“Yes. Thank you,” I tell him, every fiber of my being screaming for him to take me back.
I catch my breath in my throat. Those aren’t the words I was saying! What is going on here? I try again to talk, but my mouth doesn’t move, leaving my throat to clench uselessly as no sound escapes.