“So where’s sloppy drunk Rita?” Mitchell raises his shoulders to his ears and digs his hands deeper into his coat pockets as a gust of cold air rushes in from the open door behind him. He looks over his shoulder toward the back of the bar and wonders if Rita has slipped off to the bathroom, disgustingly names “holes” for women and “poles” for men. He remembers his first encounter with Rita, rolling out of the bathroom completely wasted to open the floodgates all over his corduroy blazer. Her apology, “Who wears corduroy anymore? Trust me, I did you a favor.”
Mitchell shakes his head. “I will never understand why you guys continue to come here.”
“To relax and relieve ourselves from the stress of the day,” Renee says sarcastically. “Why don’t you sit? Join us. You look a little tense.”
Mitchell rolls his tongue over his back molars and bites down. “You know I don’t drink.”
“Nobody has a drink here.” Renee motions to the table, which is a mess of chicken wings and balled up napkins smothered in sauce. He spots the clear glasses in front of Renee and Natasha and quickly snatches up Natasha’s to sniff the rim.
“Really, Mitchell?” Renee says.
He ignores her, looks directly at Natasha. “Antonio said you had three drinks.”
“It’s water,” she says.
“I can still smell it!”
“Let’s not cause a scene, please!” Renee raises her voice to a little over a squeal, and it’s as if everything around them suddenly goes silent. The clinks of the balls hitting at the pool tables and of the beer bottles being tossed together in the trash no longer ring in Mitchell’s ear.
Antonio nudges Mitchell’s arm. “Why don’t we leave the ladies alone before we make ourselves look like bigger idiots.” He takes Mitchell’s wrist and tries to pull him back toward the bar, but Mitchell wrings himself out of his grasp.
“No. Natasha and I need to talk.”
“I agree.” She nods and stands, Mitchell assumes, for the first time since sitting down. He notices that she wobbles slightly and takes a step back to regain her balance, but he says nothing. He holds her by the waist and walks, almost carrying her to the door.
“I’ll call Bryan and we’ll take care of your car, sweetie!” Renee calls to their backs. The frigid December air sweeps over them as they exit. Mitchell takes off his coat and drapes it across Natasha’s shoulders, but with the level of alcohol in her system, he suspects she doesn’t feel a thing.