She did it. Every meeting. Every person she shook hands with. Every time she had to wear that hideous outfit. It was over. Every ounce of work she put into the mayor’s reelection paid off. By the work of her hands, Mayor Davis remained in power for another four years. If only he recognized that. It didn’t matter though. Mary knew what she had done and didn’t wait for anyone to pat her on the back. To celebrate, she did something different. She went to a lounge and ordered her favorite drink: Love Potion No. 5.
Sitting at a bar alone was a new experience, and she embraced it. That’s what her new life was all about: overcoming and embracing new challenges and experiences. Mary was a social drinker, and the last time she had a drink was when she and Asia’s friends celebrated her new job. Before that, it was some ball she and John attended together ages ago. She was kind of a lightweight anyway and knew her limitations, but Love Potion No. 5 was a strong and dangerous drink. Even in those days she didn’t drink it often, but when she did, she found herself feeling light as a feather, giggling and grinning from ear to ear, and feeling her heart go pitter patter whenever John was in her view; they had some wild nights off that stuff.
As dangerous as she knew the beverage was, she had no qualms about ordering it. There was no man in her life to make her feel weak in the knees, and she wasn’t the type to give into lustful whims. Besides, she was celebrating and wanted to feel good about what she accomplished especially when she wasn’t sure if it was good or not. Everything was under control.
A jazz band played on the stage a few feet from her. The harmonies flitted around her head like butterflies dancing with each other. She swayed with them, hoping they’d allow her to join the dance. Ok…she was definitely buzzing already.
“Isn’t this music so wonderful,” she said to anyone who was listening.
The bartender smiled and nodded at her. She was probably not phased by Mary’s partially inebriated state.
“My father used to play this music. I wonder if he still does.”
“Mary Jones,” a familiar, smooth male voice called behind her. “We meet again..and we match!”
She swiveled on her stool to face the handsome devil. His skin seemed to glow, and his eyes looked bluer than ever. And his smile… The booze was definitely clouding her judgment, and she quickly wiped the smile off her face and slid off her stool.
She straightened her blazer and cleared her throat. “Are you stalking me?” She hoped she sounded annoyed because she sure didn’t feel like it.
“Stalking?” He chuckled and folded his arms across his chest. “I should ask you the same question. You’re in my town in my lounge…”
His teeth were so white and seemed to sparkle when he smiled. Even as a teenager he didn’t smile much. He had the best smile, and she wished he showed it more.
“What are you drinking? I’ll buy you another.”
He stepped toward her, but she recoiled. “I don’t need another. I was just leaving.”
He let her get past him a few steps before he went after her. “Mary. Mary!”
Jolts of warm energy went up her arm and down her spine when his hands gently clasped her wrist.
“Mary. Stop, please.”
He always went after her. Back in the day, she found his pursuit to be inappropriate. What was it now? She turned and faced him.
“Look, can we…” He sighed. “I just want to know how you are, ok? I don’t want anything from you. Let’s go upstairs and talk for a minute. There’s a great view.”
There was no harm in talking even in her condition. She would keep it professional. No reminiscing, no family talk, and definitely no divorce talk.
She cleared her throat. “So, you left Newcrest?” That question violated the rules, but it was important so she allowed it.
He went on and on about feeling smothered by his parents and feeling unfulfilled and wanting to do something that mattered. She couldn’t listen to what he was saying because her buzz was settling quite nicely. She began smiling and couldn’t stop. Her doe eyes were glued to his gorgeous face which caught the sun’s rays at just the right angle. He looked so angelic! She vowed to never drink alone again.
“What about you? Mary?”
“How did you get into politics?”
She felt so smiley and foolish. “Oh. I needed a job and my neighbor connected me. It isn’t even the job I was hired for.”
“Oh? How come?”
“I was supposed to handle the mayor’s charity events, but I suppose I was hired at the wrong time. He was more concerned with being re-elected, so he made us all drop everything and become his campaign team.”
Reed snorted. “That Davis don’t know how to spell charity.”
If she weren’t so giddy and a little bit woozy, she’d refute that statement, but she was still locked in his eyes.
“So you got him re-elected, huh? That’s quite an accomplishment for your resume. Especially your first job.”
The compliment did nothing to help her out of his gaze. “Thank you. That’s what I’m here celebrating.”
He sucked his teeth. “You think that’s something to celebrate? Letting that buffoon kick his feet up behind the desk for another four years?”
Her smile faltered just a tiny bit. “I don’t know what he does at his desk, but he should thank me.”
Those pearly whites of his showed themselves again. “He should. He really should.
“Have you ever considered working in the private sector? You should work for someone who will appreciate your talents. I don’t think politics is right for you.”
“Why do you keep saying that? I can do anything if I work at it.”
“I know, and I like that about you. But, you also have this…this…I don’t know what you call it, but you like to help. And you’re a badass planner!”
She blushed. “Oh, Reed. Please.”
“I remember all those debutante things you used to throw together on a wing and a prayer. You have talent. You could do some real good somewhere.”
She wasn’t sure why, but it sounded like he was trying to steer her away from politics. He didn’t know her anymore and had no idea what she was capable of. “That may be true, but I’m fine where I am for now.”
There was a brief moment of silence before Reed violated the rules, and she let him, vowing the entire time to never drink Love Potion No. 5 ever again.
“I know this is probably highly inappropriate, but I just have to know. What happened between you and John? I mean, are you ok?”
For the first time all night, Mary finally found the will to stop smiling. “Are you asking out of genuine concern, or do you just want gossip to take back to Newcrest?”
He grinned. “I don’t live in Newcrest.”
Part of her wanted to tell him while the other part was adamant about sticking to the rules she broke within the first five minutes.
“I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me. I just–”
“Why did you kiss me?” She wasn’t expecting to ask that question, but there it was laying on the table awaiting an answer.
The devilish grin from before returned. “Because you needed to be kissed.”
A growl escaped her lips. “I’m serious, Reed!”
“You know why!”
She gasped. “But, Reed. You knew I was married. I didn’t think you were that kind of person.”
He sighed and hung his head. “I’m not. I’m sorry. I really am. I was just so angry at him…at you… Then, all those years later, we end up at the same ball. I had more drinks than I should have. We danced and talked. I guess I just forgot how mad I was. You didn’t even pull away.”
Just when she was beginning to sympathize, he had to go ruin it. “I did too!”
He shook his head and had a little gleam in his eye. “Not at first.”
She opened her mouth a few times to contest him, but she couldn’t. He was right. She liked it just like he said. “So…what…you thought you’d have better luck at my house? Where my children were? Or, were you drunk then too?”
He chuckled again. “I wasn’t drunk. I was crazy.”
She couldn’t help but laugh with him.
There was a lull in the conversation, and Mary felt obligated to answer his question seeing as how she bombarded him with an unexpected one. “Unless you lived in Granite Falls with the hermit, I’m quite sure you know what happened.”
“But that was so long ago. You were still married when you left Newcrest. I mean, why stay with him for so long?”
He was a stalker. A very cute one at that. “I had to.”
“Oh, Mary, come on now–”
“No, I really had to! My father made it so if we got divorced, Tim wouldn’t get the inheritance.”
“Tim? But, you’re his heir.”
“Not anymore.” She lowered her head. “He was so angry at us, he denounced me and barred me from my trust fund. Tim is his heir now.”
“But, that doesn’t make sense. Why punish you for what that coward did?”
“He said I was equally guilty because I couldn’t hold his interests.”
“Oh, Mary. You know it isn’t true. Please tell me you know it’s not true. That dipstick stepped out. That’s on him!”
She appreciated his fervor and compassion. That was a side of him he never showed her before, and she was glad he matured over the years. “I know I played a role in his missteps, but now I know for sure it wasn’t my fault even with what I did.”
“I tried, Reed. I really did. We tried counseling, but we couldn’t be truthful because of things my father wouldn’t want to get out. I tried making myself more available to him, but I messed around and got pregnant again. I don’t regret my daughter, of course, but I wish she didn’t have to be born into this mess. After a while, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle, and I asked him if he ever loved me.”
Reed sat back on his hip, and she could see the anger rising up in him.
He shook his head. “That little llama turd.”
“I’m sorry, Mary. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
He shocked her. She knew he was getting angry with her all over again for letting John interfere with what they had. He had to have known she wasn’t completely invested for such a thing to happen. He was probably judging her as they sat and talked, but he made no mention of it. Instead, he felt sorry for her. What had he gone through to grow so much?
“What about you? Did you ever get married?”
He snorted and looked away from her. “I almost did, but… You know there’s only one woman for me.”
They always said the hottest part of the day is right before the sun goes down. That had to be why Mary felt so warm. Ok…so she was still buzzing pretty strong.
“This was nice, right?”
She smiled. “Yes. It was.”
“See. I don’t bite…on Thursdays.”
They shared a laugh.
“Can we do this again soon?”
When Mary arrived at home, she was all smiles. Actually, she smiled and hummed as she traipsed about the house gathering the dirty dishes to wash.
Phoenix was upset about something, but Mary didn’t bother asking her about it yet; she wasn’t ready for her happy mood to be ruined.
“What are you all cheery about?”
“You’re smiling too much. And you never hum!”
“I always smile, darling.”
“Good heavens, Phoenix! What is it?”
“You just put a stack of dirty dishes in the fridge. What’s wrong with you?”
“I did no such…” She peered into the refrigerator. “Oh dear…”
“You’re so weird.”