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» Blog Archive » Post-coital Tristesse — Word Count: 21,283

Post-coital Tristesse — Word Count: 21,283

“Winston!” Elizabeth exclaimed, rushing over to her old friend and giving him a hug. “It’s so good to see you!”

Winston pried himself out of Elizabeth’s grip and continued to mix powdered creamer into his coffee. It’s too early for this shit, he thought. And what the fuck is she wearing? A powder blue linen suit? Bruce doesn’t even wear suits to work!

“Uh, hey, Elizabeth,” he mumbled, stirring the coffee. “Guess we’re co-workers now, huh?”

“I know!” Elizabeth squealed. “It’s so exciting! I’m just so happy to be working with my best friends!”

“Best friends, right,” Winston said, taking a sip of his coffee and wincing as the acrid liquid hit the back of his throat. All of his money, and Patman can’t even buy decent coffee for the office? he thought. He snapped his fingers, remembering something. “Speaking of best friends, I saw Enid down at Kelly’s last night.”

“Enid? At Kelly’s?” Elizabeth asked. “Are you sure?”

Winston nodded and took another sip of the bitter concoction. “Yeah, I talked to her for a second,” he said. He shook his head. “That girl was ripped last night.”

“Tell me something, Winston,” Elizabeth said casually, pouring herself a cup of coffee, “did you see Bruce there last night?”

Winston laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No,” Elizabeth said, replacing the coffeepot and turning to face Winston. “Was Bruce there?”

“Bruce would not set foot in Kelly’s Bar,” he said. “I’m sure of that.”

“Hmm,” Elizabeth said, wrapping her hands around the warm cup. “I saw Enid this morning, and she said she’d been out on a date with Bruce last night.”

Winston shrugged. “He could have been there, but I seriously doubt it. To be honest, I wasn’t paying attention. I was trying to pick up this cute hipster girl,” he said. “Which reminds me — I’ve got to go find that chick’s number. She left one of her legwarmers at my house.”

“Oh, OK,” Elizabeth called after Winston as he left the break room. “See you later, co-worker!”

Winston shuddered as Elizabeth’s voice echoed down the hall. Working with this perky, nosy bitch is going to be a total nightmare, he thought.

* * *

Maria Santelli took a deep breath and stepped into Kelly’s Bar. Even thought it was the middle of the day, she hoped against all odds that she’d find Winston there. She’d heard it was Sweet Valley’s premiere hangout for hipster douchebags and high school dropouts.

What a dive, she thought, stepping primly over a passed-out girl wearing bright red plastic glasses and skintight black pants tucked into grey boots.

“Hello,” she said to the bartender, gingerly taking a seat on one of the barstools. How many germs are on this chair? she wondered, finally concluding it was best to try not to think about it.

“Hey,” the bartender said roughly, setting each of his hands on the bar and leaning toward Maria. “What’ll it be?”

“Um, how about some wine?” she suggested. “Do you have any white zinfandel?”

The bartender laughed. “Sure, lady,” he said.

Maria turned around the tall aluminum can he gave her, examining it from all sides. “Oh, I’ve never had this kind of white zin before,” she said. “I can’t wait to try it.”

The bartender shook his head. “It’s not white zinfandel, but it is grape flavored,” he said. “This is the closet thing I’ve got.”

Maria nodded, taking a sip and trying be polite enough to not make a face. “Do you know someone named Winston? I’ve heard he comes here sometimes,” she said.

“Yeah, I know him,” the bartender said, crossing his arms across his chest defensively. “Why? Who’s asking?”

Maria extended her hand across the bar. “I’m an old friend of his — Maria Santelli,” she said, drawing her hand back when she realized the bartender wasn’t going to shake it. “It’s nice to meet you.”

The bartender just grunted.

“So he does come here, then?” she asked, taking another demure sip of her drink. “Sometimes?”

“Sometimes?” the bartender repeated with a smirk. “Try all the time, lady.”

Maria’s heart jumped into her throat. “Do you think he’ll be in here today?”

The bartender shrugged. “Not this early,” he said. He turned his back on Maria and rinsed a pint glass. “Maybe later tonight.”

Maria bit her lip. If Michael finds out I’ve been here today, he’ll kill me, she thought. But finally, I’m so close to Winston!

“Does he have a girlfriend?” Maria asked the bartender. “Or, you know, someone he comes here with?”

The bartender snorted with laughter, but he didn’t turn around. “Oh yeah, I see him with lots of different women whenever he’s in here,” he said. “Why, you lookin’ to be his next conquest?”

“I was his first conquest,” Maria said defensively. “And I used to be a cheerleader!”

“So what?” the bartender said, turning to appraise Maria. “I wouldn’t advertise that, if I were you. This is the kind of places where cheerleaders get their asses kicked.”

Maria nodded, vowing silently to keep her mouth shut. He was probably right about that, at least. She turned around on her barstool, giving the rest of the bar a sweeping look. The only person she recognized was Rick Andover, slumped over a table, several empty beer glasses tipped on their sides around his head. He seemed to be fast asleep.

Farther down the bar, three girls were talking and laughing loudly. Maybe it was her imagination, but Maria was sure they were laughing at her. She looked down at her pristine white cardigan and mom jeans. I really stick out in this crowd, Maria thought.

Still, she continued to sip on her drink and wait for Winston to show up. He’ll be here, I know it, she reassured herself. I’m sure by the time I finish this huge drink, he’ll be here. And then we can clear the air between us.

Five hours later and near the end of Maria’s drink, a tall, handsome man took a seat next to her. “Hey, there,” he said, winking at her.

Maria’s brain was fuzzy from the drink, but she instantly recognized him. “Bruce!” she exclaimed loudly, throwing her arms around him. “I haven’t seen you in soooo long!”

“Shh, Maria,” he said, eyeing the girls at the other end of the bar. “People are staring.”

“Oh, Bruce, they’re already staring,” she said, carelessly waving a hand in the air and nearly knocking over her drink. “We’re the only normal-looking people in here.”

He nodded in agreement and moved her drink away. “You almost finished with this?” he asked.

Maria nodded emphatically. “Can you believe they don’t have white zinfandel here?” she asked in a loud whisper. “It’s taken me five hours to drink this whole thing. I haven’t been this drunk since that stupid Heather Mallone kicked me off the cheerleading squad in high school. Do you remember her? God, she was such a bitch!”

He nodded in agreement. “She was, however, an excellent lay,” he said.

Maria rolled her eyes. “I’m sure I’m much better,” she challenged. “Just ask Winston.”

He laughed and took a long sip of his drink. “I’d rather not,” he said. “Besides, why should I ask Winston when you’re right here to show me?”

Though Maria’s brain was screaming at her to stop, she leaned in toward him in spite of herself. Her mouth was inches from his, but he pushed her back and looked around nervously. “Not here, all right?” he said in a low voice. “Meet me outside in ten minutes.”

Maria watched him leave, wondering if she should follow him. She closed out her tab and stood up, her legs unsteady. Bruce can help me find Winston, she reasoned, her logic as fuzzy as her head. Yes, I’m sure he’ll help me.

* * *

Elizabeth sat behind her desk, tapping a pencil against her coffee mug. She had to find a way to show Sweet Valley that Bruce was innocent. She just wasn’t sure how she’d do it yet. She stared out the window, gazing at the smoke that obscured her view of her quaint little town and what she knew was the ocean beyond.

A knock sounded at the door, breaking into Elizabeth’s thoughts. “Hey, Elizabeth,” Bruce said, entering Elizabeth’s office. “How’s everything going so far?”

“Oh, fine,” she said, surprised at how nice Bruce was being. “I really think I’m going to like working here!”

“That makes one of us,” he said, taking a seat across from her. “Look, I know this is probably asking for more than your job description, but I really need some help.”

Elizabeth nodded. “I understand,” she said. “This is about that whole date rapist thing, isn’t it?”

“I didn’t do it, Elizabeth!” he exploded. “No one believes me. Not even my cousinbro.”

“I believe you,” she said gently, reaching across the desk and taking Bruce’s hand. “I know you used to do some … questionable things with girls, but that was back in high school. I’m sure you’ve changed.”

“Why does everyone have to bring up my past?” he grumbled, looking down and refusing to meet Elizabeth’s meddling stare.

“People are scared,” she said softly. “I know it seems unfair, but everyone’s looking for an explanation. You’re just the easiest person to blame it on at this point.”

“Well, it’s not fair,” he said hotly. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Elizabeth.”

“I’ll help you,” she promised. “In fact, I was just sitting here, thinking of some things we could do to help show everyone that you’re innocent.” Elizabeth let go of Bruce’s hand and paced back and forth in front of the window, turning her back on him.

“Anything yet?” Bruce asked hopefully.

Elizabeth let out a long sigh. “No,” she admitted. “I was actually thinking about asking Jessica for some help — she usually comes up with all sorts of flawless plans. But Jessica doesn’t exactly believe in your innocence.”

“Well, of course she doesn’t,” Bruce snapped. “That dimwitted bimbo doesn’t have the critical thinking skills to figure out the truth even when it’s staring her right in the fucking face.”

“Oh, I completely agree,” Elizabeth said. “That’s why I’ve decided to keep her out of it.”

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03 2011

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