She had acquired a taste for whiskey under false pretenses. Initially, it had been to gain an advantage; to set her apart as a woman amongst girls. Girls, with their Chardonnay and vodka-cranberries. Some of them thought beer did the trick, said “I love sports and I will never complain when you want to have a guys night.”
But whiskey trumped all. Whiskey said, “I cannot only accurately and thoroughly discuss the NCAA tournament, but you won’t even be able to reach me if you call during your guys’ night.”
Whiskey had gotten her some dates. And, somewhere along the way, she had truly begun to enjoy it.
She ordered it neat, no ice, and the brunette (tall, glasses, a tee that looked casual but draped perfectly) next to her looked up. That was all she needed. The look up.
“Hey,” he replied, drawing out the e. “Heeeeeey.”
She smiled, because even though she had technically started the conversation, she was still going to make him steer it. (Always give the illusion of control, is what her mother said. Her mother, with four failed marriages. Her mother could talk a good game.)
“How’s your night?”
She looked around the bar, as if she were responsible for this little gathering of lost souls at ten on a Tuesday. “It’s going well. Beautiful outside.”
Normally, she would not bring up the weather but the weather truly was of note: a 75 degree day, smack in the middle of March. A tiny gift from spring. Don’t worry, I’m coming.
Of course, the temperature had dropped when the sun did, leaving everyone jacket-less in the frigid cold. But they were all–in their sundresses and tees, sandals and flip-flops–collectively going to pretend that it hadn’t.
“Yeah, it’s unreal” he replied. An unruly curl dropped into his face, a motion he orchestrated. He knew just the tilt to make it happen. A-ha, she thought. I am not dealing with an amateur.
“So, do you live around here?”
“Around here” was midtown and no one lived around there unless they had been dropped from the middle of nowhere into the city, duped by Craigslist listings that didn’t actually exist, desperate to escape communal hostel living with Europeans who showered sparingly.
“What about you?”
“Nah. I’m actually up from DC. I had a meeting.”
She scanned him obviously, an exaggerated raised eyebrow when she got to worn-in jeans and Converse Chucks.
“Not a work meeting.” He smiled. She smiled back.
She knew what he saw, had worked hard on the presentation. Long hair (of course), loose and wavy, meant to convey a breezy, just-from-the-shower ease when really it took dozens of hot rollers and upwards of five products to secure. Jeans and a tee-shirt because jeans-and-a-tee-shirt were what all men liked, except the jeans were expertly cut to lift and sculpt a decent ass into a great one and the tee-shirt had an all important (and deep) V in the front, aided by a behind-the-scenes lift-and-separate bra. Just enough makeup to enhance certain features but not enough that it would read to the male eye as “makeup.”
Juliette was engineered to be as appealing to men as possible, having been reared by a woman whose sole purpose in life was to be as appealing to men as possible. Juliette was her mother’s ultimate creation; Susan Atwood had poured male-interaction wisdom and beauty tips and whole repertoires of dieting knowledge into her only child and what had emerged somewhere around age 17 was a protege who far surpassed her master.
Even her name was meant to draw men in. Beautiful and elegant with the perfect nickname (Jules.)
Mr. Up-for-a-meeting-from-DC didn’t even stand a chance.