Emma was sitting alone in the booth in the back of the bar, trying to remain unnoticed as she drank away her sorrows. She had tears slipping down her pale cheeks and her eyes were bloodshot from all the crying she’d done that day. There was an unrelenting pain in her chest, no doubt from the tear in her heart.
She had her trembling hands around a chilled glass of beer, now half-empty. She didn’t exactly like the taste of beer, but she had found that it always helped to take the edge off. Tonight, however, it didn’t seem to be working.
She had her head down and her eyes locked on her drink, thinking about everything and yet nothing all at once. She could hear voices in the background, but she didn’t listen to what they were saying. It was only when saw someone in her peripheral that she raised her head.
When she did, she found herself staring up into the concerned, smoky eyes of a brunette with olive skin and a faint smile gracing those painted lips. At first, she thought the woman was a waitress, but it soon became clear to her that this was not the case.
The woman was clearly older, but that didn’t make her any less beautiful. She seemed to possess a certain wisdom, given the way she spoke to the tearful blonde before her.
“What’s your name, Miss?” asked the brunette.
Emma hesitated, visibly uncertain. “Emma,” she said quietly, tightening her grip on her glass.
“I don’t mean to intrude, but you look like you could use some company.”
This stunned the blonde. “Um, okay,” she said reluctantly. She avoided the brunette’s gaze, but could still feel the woman’s eyes on her.
The stranger took a seat across from her. “I’m Regina,” said the brunette, “I’m sorry if I’ve interrupted anything. My date stood me up, so I was about to leave, but then I saw you and thought you might like some company. Did you have someone bail, as well?”
Emma let out an uncontrollably sob. “Yes,” she confessed, “but not on a date. My boyfriend, Killian. He left me today. We were together for a little over two years now. He left me for another woman.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Regina.
Emma believed she was genuine, which came as a surprise. Most people couldn’t have cared less about someone else’s problems. The brunette locked eyes with her and offered a comforting smile.
“Have you ordered anything yet?”
“Just a beer,” Emma said, gesturing to the half-empty glass.
“How about I buy you another one?” Regina offered, “Along with dinner.”
Emma shook her head. “You don’t have to do that, but I appreciate the offer.”
“Please, I insist,” said the brunette, “You’re clearly upset. I want to help you feel better, Miss Emma.”
“Just call me Emma,” the blonde told her, “and you really don’t have to buy me dinner.”
“You’re right. I don’t have to do anything,” said Regina, “but I feel that I should. It seems like the right thing to do in a situation like this.”
“Why are you doing this? You don’t even know me.”
Regina’s smile widened. “True,” she said softly, “but I’d like to.”
Emma’s brows furrowed a bit. “A— Are you flirting with me?” she asked, bewildered and just a tad insulted.
“I suppose it depends on your interpretation,” said Regina, “but as for my intentions, the answer is no. I simply want to do something nice for you, Emma. You deserve to be happy.”
Emma sighed heavily, taking a long, slow sip of her drink. “And you think buying me dinner will make me happy?”
“It’s a start, isn’t it?”
The blonde shrugged awkwardly. “I guess so.” She skimmed the menu briefly before locking eyes with the woman across from her, who was just giving her a knowing smile.
“Find what you want?” Regina asked her.
“I’ll probably just get a steak or something. Maybe a salad. I don’t know yet.”
“I recommend the sirloin,” said Regina, “but whatever you choose, I’m paying for it.”
“Can’t we just split the bill?”
“No,” Regina said adamantly, “I told you, I’m paying.”
“Emma. I’m. Paying.”
Emma sighed. “Fine.”
Regina just grinned at her. “Wonderful.”
Emma was currently cutting into a sirloin, medium rare (as all steaks were meant to be), while Regina enjoyed a nice salad, watching the blonde intently.
“Good, isn’t it?”
Emma nodded as she swallowed. “Yeah,” she said quietly.
Regina’s smile widened. “What did I tell you? There isn’t much that I’m good at,” she confessed, “but I do know a thing or two about cooking, and which steaks are the best.” She eyed the strawberry daiquiri next to Emma’s plate. “You’ve hardly touched your drink. Do you not like it?”
“Oh, it’s good,” said Emma, “I just can’t drink too much of it at once, or I’ll get a brain freeze. Besides, I want to enjoy this steak for as long as I can.”
Regina chuckled. “Understandable.”
They ate in silence for the longest time before Emma confessed, rather unexpectedly, “Today’s my birthday.”
Regina blinked in surprise, but smiled brightly. “All the more reason to have someone buy you dinner,” she said, “Forgive me, but it seems awfully cold to break up with a woman on her birthday.”
Emma let out a bitter laugh. “Yeah,” she muttered. She just sighed and took a slow sip of her drink. “Tell me about it.”
Regina sat back for a moment, not saying a word. She ate more of her salad in silence before thinking of a response. “Tell me something, Emma,” she said, staring deep into the blonde’s sea-green eyes.
“Okay,” Emma said hesitantly, “What do you wanna know?”
A smile tugged at the brunette’s lips, and she leaned in as if to confess a dark secret. What she said was not at all what Emma was expecting (though to be fair, Emma wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at this point).
“I want to know if you would like to make this an everyday occurrence,” Regina said softly.
Emma’s eyes became wide. “What? You mean, buying me dinner?”
“If you want,” said Regina, “but it could be more than that. So much more.”
Emma’s brows furrowed, and she sat back, staring at the brunette with uncertainty. “What is this, Regina? Are you trying to, what, buy me?”
“Not you, dear,” Regina assured as she sipped her drink, “Just your company.”
The blonde grit her teeth in anger. “If you think for a second that I’m some kind of whore—”
“Emma,” Regina said firmly, “No. You misunderstand me. What I want has nothing to do with sex. Of course, if you want sex, that’s perfectly fine. We can always discuss that later, but what I want, Emma, is someone to take care of. Someone to spoil with lavish gifts. Someone to pamper.”
Emma blinked at her, unsure of how to respond. “In exchange for what, exactly? Where’s the catch?”
“The only catch, my dear— if you can even call it that— is that I want you to spend time with me. I am quite lonely, you know.”
“No,” Emma said quickly, “No, I don’t know. This is insane. I don’t even know anything about you. We just met, like, an hour ago, and you’ve already offered to pay for my dinner and now you’re— Christ— what is this, Regina? What do you want from me? Are you just gonna mug me the second we walk out of here?”
“Of course not,” said Regina, “I don’t want or need your money, Emma. I only want your company.”
Emma was quiet for the longest time, but finally, she asked, “Why?”
Regina’s smile returned. “Because I knew the moment I saw you that you needed this as much as I did.”
“And how’d you come to that conclusion?”
“You were crying alone in the back of a bar. I’ve never seen anyone more in need of this than you, dear Emma. Besides,” said Regina, “Today is your birthday, as you said, and you deserve to be treated like a Queen.”
Emma just sighed, shaking her head. “This is insane.”
Regina laughed softly. “I suppose that’s one word for it.”
“So you wanna buy me all these expensive things just so I’ll hang out with you? Don’t you think that’s kind of— you know— sad?”
“Sad? I suppose it’s just how you look at it. I see it as an opportunity for two lonely, broken souls to come together and heal.”
This came as a surprise to Emma. “Did you lose someone, too?”
Regina’s smile fell, though she forced herself to maintain it. “Is there anything else you’d like to order? We can stay here as long as you like.”
Emma was mildly concerned when the brunette suddenly changed the subject, but decided to worry about it later. “I’m good,” she said quietly, “I need to get home before it starts raining. I heard it was gonna get bad tonight.”
“Very well,” said Regina, “Let me give you my number before you go.”
She retrieved a pen from her purse and a napkin from the table, quickly jotting down her phone number. She smiled at Emma as they locked eyes, and in one swift motion, she kissed the corner of the white napkin, leaving behind the scarlet imprint of her plush lips. She handed it to Emma without a word, and their hands brushed together— only for a moment— as the blonde took it reluctantly.
Emma stared at the napkin in a mix of wonder and disbelief. “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?”
The brunette’s smile slowly returned. “I am,” she said softly, “Will you at least consider my offer?”
“What happens if I don’t?” asked Emma.
“Then I would still like to be your friend, regardless.”
“So, this whole thing would be more than friendship?”
“Only if you want it to be.”
“Do you want it to be?”
Regina’s smile widened. “I’m not sure yet.”
“If this isn’t just friendship, and not about sex, then what is it?” asked Emma.
“If you decide to take me up on my offer, then I suppose that would make me,” Regina paused, peering at Emma over the rim of her glass as she took another drink, “your Sugar Mama.”