He’s starring in a story that he never dared to dream about. Until now. 1,484 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
The shift ended early due to a water main break near the construction site. Since he was downtown, Luis Delgado decided to head over to Clancy’s Tavern, two blocks away in San Luis Obispo. The bar was a step up from Barbary, his normal haunt, and a brisk walk from the studio apartment he’d moved into after divorcing Helen. From the start, his mother predicted the marriage wouldn’t last and Luis stayed in it longer than he should have, partly in defiance of her prescience.
Entering through Clancy’s back door, he proceeded down a darkened hallway and arrived in the main room which glowed softly with filtered afternoon light. The place was sparsely populated: a few middle-aged men seated at intervals along the mahogany bar, hunched over their drinks.
As Luis grabbed a stool, he noticed the bartender chatting with an unusually attractive woman at the far end. When the bartender broke away and walked toward him, the woman made eye contact and graced Luis with a smile. Something about her was familiar. Had he met her before? Not likely. He would have remembered that face even though it wore barely any makeup.
“The lady would like to buy you a drink,” the bartender said leaning over the bar. “What’ll it be?”
When the whiskey-soda arrived, Luis held up the glass and toasted the woman. Then he took a sip and placed it in front of him, examining the corona of bubbles around the rim and contemplating what to do now because a woman had never bought him a drink before. He considered joining her but feared overstepping his bounds. Sometimes, the line between congeniality and harassment was paper thin.
“Mind if I sit down?” the woman said.
Luis looked up, surprised. Mind? I should say not, he thought as he eyed her full lips. “Please,” he said tongue-tied. Then something clicked. She looked just like that Australian-born movie star with a similar sparkle in her eyes and the same lithe petite body. Not that a famous actress would be caught dead having drinks at a glorified dive like Clancy’s Tavern on a Wednesday afternoon. And even if she was, she wouldn’t be sitting next to him.
Though the resemblance was strong he decided not to mention it, figuring she might or might not find the comparison complimentary.
“Ann,” she said, crossing her legs which were swathed in flared khaki trousers. “And who might you be?”
“Luis,” he said. She hadn’t given a last name, so neither did he even though he wasn’t familiar with shorthand pick-up etiquette. He maintained his composure but under the surface he was as excited as a teenaged boy who’d been given permission to seduce a beautiful woman and was terrified of blowing the opportunity. One false move and she would be gone, he thought. Rather than risk saying the wrong thing, he let her do the talking.
“I didn’t know people still carried around lunch pails,” she said, pointing her chin at the black metal box by his right elbow. Then she added, “It’s rather charming, almost evocative.”
Charming? Evocative? Hardly the kind of words the women he knew used much less when they were trying to hit on him. But none of them looked like a movie star, either. Not that he’d ever fantasized about this actress — or any other screen beauty. His thoughts instead always focused on the attainable women on his level.
“I’m on the crew at a new office complex that’s being built over on Willow and things get really busy,” he explained. “No time to go out for lunch.”
“Ah. You’re in construction,” she said, rolling the word around her lips with her tongue. “May I see your hands?”
Luis flashed his palms and she took the left one and ran her fingers along the callouses, a gesture he found arousing.
Keep calm and carry on, he thought to himself.
“No wedding ring?” she remarked.
“Not any more,” he replied.
Ann jiggled her right hand, also ring-less. “I guess then we’re what you would call two consenting adults.”
He nodded and had the sudden urge to kiss her. But, again, he restrained himself.
“Shall we have another drink and then perhaps go for a spin?” she suggested.
“Ready,” Luis stated after taking one last sip. “Got any place special in mind?”.
“I’ll let you decide that,” she smiled and signaled for the bartender.
They didn’t say much after that, except with their eyes. Ann hopped off the stool and followed him out the back door. In the front seat of Luis’ truck, she took his left hand and held it as they coursed up the hill toward his apartment.
“I’m warning you. My place isn’t much to look at,” Luis said. “Just a bed and a dresser.”
“That’ll do,” she replied, rubbing his hand in both of hers. For a moment, he gave himself over to the thought of pulling to the side of the road and moving the party to the back seat. But he sensed she was the type of woman who preferred a soft mattress and clean sheets and, as luck would have it, he’d changed the bed linens the previous day.
“Told you,” he said as they entered his no-frills rental.
But Ann seemed uninterested in the decor. “Would you help me undo my blouse,” she said, turning around.
Luis came up behind her and lowered his mouth onto the nape of her neck as he unfastened the buttons. He breathed deeply and smelled the faint scent of lilac. She turned and their lips met. He planted kisses on her cheeks and whispered in her ear, “Think I need to shower?”
“I should say not,” she said, pressing up against him and running her fingers through his rich black hair.
From the start, Ann seemed to know what she wanted and Luis found her boldness intoxicating. As she was straddling him, he focused on the looseness of her golden curls and on the delicate curve of her back. He moaned and tried to hold on. For her sake. When she finally got there, he let go.
But he wasn’t done yet. As she curled up beside him and sighed contentedly, it was his turn to take the reins. This time he was there only for her. Normally, he was not so giving, but some women bring out the best in a man.
Afterwards, while he was holding her, he fell asleep only to be awakened by her whispering. “Luis. Luis.”
Opening his eyes, he noticed that she was already half dressed and had expertly restored a light makeup to her face: lip gloss and blush.
“You going?” Luis asked, unable to conceal his disappointment.
“I’m afraid I must,” she replied, turning around so she could re-button her blouse. “But thank you. I had a marvelous time.”
“Can we see each other again?” he asked timidly.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. I leave in the morning and I’ll be gone for several months at least, and then I’m heading home to visit family.”
The timbre of her voice had changed and so had her accent. As she reached into her purse for a brush and ran it through her hair, she met his eyes.
“Yes, I am her,” she said sounding almost resigned.
“I know,” he said. And a beat later, that knowledge hit him, and he realized that he’d just made love to a movie star.
He rose and walked over to her. “You can’t leave just yet.”
She allowed him to wrap his arms around her. “And why’s that?”
“Because I will probably never get another chance to sleep with a famous actress.”
“But you already have,” she insisted.
“No, I slept with this wonderful woman named Ann,” he said as he removed her blouse and undid her bra.
This time she let him lead the way and when she had trouble finishing he said softly, “Don’t think about it. Just relax.”
While she was dressing for the second time, she said, “Now you understand why I didn’t tell you who I was.”
Luis nodded. “Too many expectations.”
“Right. Ann can walk into a bar and go home with any man she pleases be it a construction worker or a lawyer. Whereas a movie star simply can’t. I miss Ann, which by the way is the name I was born with.”
“Ann was easier to please,” he said, breaking into an impish grin. She threw her hairbrush at him. When she reached for him, he said, “Not without a kiss.”
“No. You’re horrible,” she groused and then gave him a quick peck. “I suppose you’re going to brag to all your friends that you seduced me.”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because you’re a man,” she replied.
“Our secret,” he said, making a cross over his heart. “And, honestly, who would believe me?”