Alice sat at the bar in the restaurant alone. She ordered a drink for two reasons: she needed something to calm her nerves (she was shaking like the last orange fall leaf dangling precariously from the branch of an otherwise naked oak tree), and she needed proof that she wasn’t home when it happened. This was to be her alibi.
She sucked down her mojito like it was water in the desert and ordered another. She ran her fingers through her wavy brown hair that she felt was turning grey by the minute. Anxiously, she tossed salted pretzels in her mouth and checked her phone. It would be done any minute now.
He unintentionally startled her as he occupied the stool next to her. She physically jumped, dropped her phone on the bar and spilled what remained of her second mojito. He apologized and gave a very handsome smile. He pulled a handkerchief from his black sports coat and offered it to Alice who graciously accepted his gesture.
The bartender was quick to arrive with dry bar towels to clean the spilled beverage. A quick gesture from the man in the black jacked with the nice smile and the bartender quickly got to work concocting another fizzy mint and lime libation for her, which she accepted readily.
“Is this seat taken?” he asked, again flashing those pearly whites. He wasn’t creepy. He was rather suave as a matter of fact. Like James Bond without the English accent. Smooth, debonair, and full of confidence, though not smug.
“No,” Alice replied. “Though I’m afraid I won’t be much company right now.”
“I wouldn’t want to disturb you,” he said, still playing it cool. The mystery man stood up as though he would find another place to sit.
Alice regained herself and thought this could help her alibi. She took another big swig of her drink to keep the liquid courage flowing and grabbed his arm to stop his exit.
“Please,” she motioned to the stool. “Actually, some company would be nice.”
He retook his seat at the bar. After patting her arms and hands dry with his handkerchief, she offered it back to him. He took it and repositioned it neatly back into his jacket pocket. She tried to muster up a smile but she knew she looked nervous.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” he leaned in closer. “Are you alright?”
She played with her hair again, took another big straw full of booze. “No, I guess I’m not.”
After inquiring more about what was the matter, she gestured to the diamond ring on her left ring finger.
“Marriage problems?” he asked.
“That’s an understatement,” she laughed, though it wasn’t funny at all. She looked again at her phone. It was almost time. Things would be better soon. Alice just needed to keep it together. Keep talking to the nice man, pay for your drinks, then go home a free woman to start your new life.
“Would you like to talk about it?” He seemed genuinely sincere.
“I don’t suppose I should. But could I buy you a drink?”
“Oh, I don’t drink.”
“Funny place to be for someone who doesn’t drink,” she pointed out the obvious.
“I’m actually meeting someone here, a client.”
“Well, as long as we’re sharing life stories,” she was feeling more comfortable. “What is it that you do?”
“I guess you could say, I help people with their problems.” It could have sounded sinister, but his big brown eyes glimmered and he smiled his famous smile again, so she didn’t assume the worst. She didn’t even suspect.
“You mean, like a psychiatrist?”
“Not exactly, though people do often tell me their personal problems, and sometimes I’m able to make things better.”
“Maybe that’s why I feel so comfortable talking to you.”
He smiled again. “Maybe.”
Once again, she looked at her phone to check the time and ordered another mojito. They were starting to kick in. Just a few more minutes. She had married young. They met in college. He was already on the fast-track to success. He knew exactly what he wanted to do in life and was working hard to make it happen. He was frugal with his money as they dated, though never stingy. They lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. He came home every night and she never suspected him of cheating on her. But, after three years, she grew bored. She felt like she had missed out on some of the most fun times in her life while he carved out a financially secure future for the both of them. Alice wanted more.
She loved the big house, the pool in the back, the membership to the country club, the nice car. But she missed the parties with her friends. She began to convince herself that he was holding her captive in her own house, though that wasn’t true at all. She had watched too many Lifetime movies in the afternoon while he was at work. She grew bitter at him, but she never told him. She could have left him. She was still young enough, she could get back to partying and still have time to find another guy to settle down with eventually. But she loved the perks of being with someone who made so much money. And that’s when she came up with the idea, a way that she could have both.
She never met the man who would give her back her freedom, and allow her to keep her fortunes, and it was to stay that way. She didn’t want to know, she was just to be informed as soon as it was done. And it was about to happen, with her safely at the bar, with witnesses.
The mystery man stood up and buttoned his black suit jacket. “I’m afraid I should be going.”
Alice was disappointed and asked him to stay.
“I do have a job to do, and you, well you have another reason on your finger there why I shouldn’t stay longer.”
She looked at her diamond ring and laughed. “Oh this. I wouldn’t worry about that.”
“Oh really,” he smiled again which she took as interest.
“Can you keep a secret?” she asked after looking at her phone one last time.
“I really must be taking care of my client,” he insisted. “I’m somewhat of a stickler for punctuality.”
“Oh for crying out loud. Who is this client? Your phone hasn’t gone off, no one else has approached you, you haven’t noticed anyone else in this place that I’ve seen. What client?”
He leaned in close. He smelled wonderful. She noticed his cologne when he first sat next to her, but at this proximity, it was intoxicating. She leaned towards him, offering her ear to his lips. Before, he spoke, he smiled again, though this time, a chill ran down Alice's spine.
“Can you keep a secret?”
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