Delia Schlimmer burst out of the shabby apartment entryway; its flimsy hinges making the door swing wildly from the force of the woman’s push. The 25 year old redhead walked directly into the breezy city air, tears unwillingly ripped from her eyes by the strength of the wind.
Again. Another schmuck.
What am I going to do with you, Delia?
Stop making up these insane stories to make me feel bad, Delia.
Typical. Overreacting again, Delia.
Get over it, Delia.
Delia was starting to flinch at the sound of her own name. Like some kind of Pavlovian response, the very sound of those five letters uttered in a sentence sent her anxiety on a rollercoaster ride. It left a bad taste in her own mouth.
Whenever she had to hear it said out loud, her body and mind closed all ranks—ready for the impending attack. The verbal abuse. The disappointed scowl. It followed her to the dentist office. And the farmer’s market. And anywhere else her name just happened to be called. But those people didn’t want to hurt her. She knew that. Her body couldn’t seem to catch on, though.
Delia swallowed the lump in her throat and trudged forward with a newfound speed, wanting—no needing to get to the bar as soon as possible. Dimmed lights. Crowded but not too loud. The bartenders were accommodating but not in people’s business. Private. The perfect spot for an after breakup cool down. Delia would know—she’s gone there after every single one. All three. Well, four now.
Well, shit. Typical Delia luck.
Someone was sitting in her usual sulking spot. It was perfect. Up on the bar and tucked a bit into the corner where the normal stragglers didn’t think to come. She wasn’t going to let this woman further ruin her already awful night, though. She attempted a confident stride over to the spot, but just ended up looking disheveled and slightly crazed.
Opting to sit one stool away, she ordered her drink and settled in with a heavy sigh before chancing a glance at the seat stealer.
Delia was surprised to see the woman already staring directly at her. Upon making herself known, however, the woman looked like a deer in the headlights, as she flushed immediately and awkwardly brought her eyes back down to her drink.
“Uhh. Sorry about that! Really sorry…for that.”
Delia raised an eyebrow at the small voice before remembering she should probably respond. Years ago she might have ignored the apology or even told her to mind her business. Delia had been working hard though, especially when she came to the realization that her unresolved trauma was playing itself out in the way she treated people. One of her friends recommended (forced really) she get into meditation and self-help. She’s been particularly fascinated in the energy people give off and how her own essence affects others. Just because people were so shitty to her doesn’t mean she should let out her anger on other people. Especially on this woman.
“Oh! No worries, darling.”
The woman gave a slight tight-lipped smile in return but didn’t look up from her drink. Delia took this opportunity to fully take in the appearance of the woman beside her. The first thing she noticed was how beautiful she was. The second was just how sad she looked; she seemed to be right up there with Delia. What could be bright blue eyes were bloodshot and glazed over. She had to be at least a little bit tipsy. Her leg was bouncing in tiny, rapid motions against the stool as her thumb fiddled with the thin band of a ring between slim fingers. Married maybe? She thought the woman looked way too young for it. But if she was, things didn’t seem to be going too well. This made Delia frown.
She continued to gloss her eyes up and down the woman’s form, attempting to find any further indicators of a relationship. While she didn’t always go for one night stands, she had an inkling that this woman could make her forget all her troubles for at least a couple of hours.
She didn’t seem like she was from the city. Delia, being born and bred in Queens, had a natural grit to her. She was pretty upfront with people and would call out anyone on their bullshit. She had to grow up fast and was tough because of it. This woman… was soft. That’s the only way Delia could describe her. In manner and appearance. She looked like what Delia felt like on the inside. Vulnerable, sensitive, soft.
Delia’s emotional armor wasn't the only thing she had gotten from the city. She had always taken to the ever changing style of the people. Right now she was clad in tight leather pants, heels, and a low-cut top that had to be the love child of a pirate and a hippie. The woman in front of her...was not wearing anything like that.
Delia’s first thought was school teacher. Maybe sustainable cottage lesbian? She hoped for the latter. The woman was wearing a flowy sundress with a slit up the side—giving Delia a generous peak at a bare leg. The dress had a simple flower pattern on it and the dark color complimented her golden hair well, which framed her face in loose ringlets. She really is beauti—
“I’m sorry! I uhh. Do you need something? It’s just that you’ve kinda been...staring at me. I-it’s okay! Really! I just uhm. Hi, I’m Barbara.”
Tired eyes met with watery ones as the woman—Barbara—extended her arm over the empty stool to take Delia’s hand in her own. Even in her alleged sadness, Barbara appeared chirpy and upbeat. Delia liked that. The handshake lasted a bit too long; both women taking in each other's features carefully.
It was Delia who pulled her hand away first. She brought it to her lap and looked at it; still taking in the feeling of the soft calluses that were briefly pressed into her palm. Attempting to recover from being caught, Delia took a swig of her drink before looking back at Barbara.
“Hey! My name is… Delia.” She murmured that last part quietly, not chancing a glance at the woman’s reaction. The sound of her name passing her own lips took her back to the memory of the first time she met her very recent ex-boyfriend. It should have been a red flag. She should have known.
Delia? Really? What a silly, foolish name.
“Oh, wow. That’s a gorgeous name, Delia! Growing up, I had always thought Barbara was a little bland. With a name like that, though, you’ve got to be lucky. So pretty!”
Delia tried to hide the surprise in her eyes as she chuckled and brushed off the compliment, not feeling deserving of it. She regurgitated her ex-boyfriends thoughts, not knowing how else to react to the kind words.
“Really? You don’t think it’s silly? Maybe foolish? What if my parents just took out the sunday paper, flipped to the word search and circled the first five letters they saw? Sounds pretty crazy to me...” Delia teased confidently, toying with the straw of her drink and locking eyes with Barbara.
Really, on the inside, her nerves were bouncing around like a fly caught in a jar. For some reason she cared what this stranger would say. If she would hurt her like the others did.
Barbara just gave a slurred giggle at Delia’s words before putting on a more serious look and once again sliding her arm against the bar top, resting her hand on top of Delia’s own.
“No...not silly at all. And even if it was, I like silly. Silly is interesting....and real.” Barbara gave Delia a wide smile before returning her gaze back to her drink, and by association, the ring abandoned by the side of the glass. Delia watched the grin slide off of Barbara’s face and the sadness returned to her eyes. It only lasted a split second before it vanished all together and was replaced with the same brightness as before. The sudden change almost scared Delia, as it reminded her of herself. Something deep inside of her wanted to know more. Was this that spiritual stuff in the works? A soul connection?
Nah, she was probably just sad and horny.
“Married?” Delia broke the silence, casually gesturing towards the silver band on the table. Barbara’s eyes flickered again with something dark. She bit at a quivering lip and downed her drink before ordering a new one.
Real smart, Delia. Make the pretty girl upset.
“Shit—I’m sorry babe. We don’t have to talk about that at all! Really, hun, I just thought—”
Barbara quickly shook her head before plastering a less convincing smile on her face. “No, no. Delia, you are completely fine! I’m just—I don’t usually do this kind of thing...or-or come to these kinds of places. I’m sorry that you have to deal with me when I’m all blahhhhhh! I’m sure you came here to enjoy your evening and now this drunk stranger is crying all over you and-”
“Barbara, hun. Deep breaths, yeah? You have absolutely no reason to apologize. Trust me girlfriend, you are not alone. So if you need to let it out, let it out. I’ll be here, okay? And besides, the drunk strangers who usually cry all over me are never as cute as you!...Would it be alright if I scooted down a seat?”
Barbara let out a shaky and embarrassed laugh at her small outburst, blushing at Delia’s compliment. She nodded as Delia slid over to the stool directly by Barbara. Up close, both women seemed to be in awe of one another. Through the beauty, however, they also noticed the dark circles and tired lines. The tear-stained cheeks and the fidgeting hands.
Barbara picked up the ring and inspected it closely before offering it to Delia. Delia took it in her palm and started to do the same as Barbara began speaking in the same small voice from before.
“I… well, gosh. I don’t know where to start. I’m not from here as you probably figured out by now!” Barbara gave herself a humorously displeased glance up and down her own form that made Delia chuckle out loud and nod her head encouragingly to continue.
“I-uh. I came from this very small farming town in Connecticut. It was...uhm...conventional to say the least. But basically, going by tradition, I had to marry the son of another large farming family in the town. And he…wasn’t very nice to me. So my friend Adam convinced me to run away and... well I did because I trust him with my life. And now I’m here in a bar with a very pretty woman and I’ve never felt more lost and confused in my entire life!”
Barbara let out a large breath as the last stream of words seemed to come out in one big huff. Delia stared at the woman in front her. She pictured a faceless, misogynistic asshole pushing her around. Then another faceless man, this one kind, handing her a bag and a train ticket to the city. And then her alone, stumbling into this bar and choosing the best seat in the house. Her seat. Stars aligning maybe? Who knows. She smiled inwardly at the strong, badass woman in front of her. Strong and soft. With a billion things she could say, Delia spits out the only thing she can think of.
“You think I’m prettyyyy, huh?” she teases, dramatically flipping her hair around. At this, Barbara widened her eyes before breaking out in a fit of laughter, doubling over and reflexively resting her head on Delia’s shoulder. Delia leans into the touch, not expecting it, but enjoying it nonetheless. They stay like that a beat longer than what could be considered normal.
In realization of her position, Barbara jolts up quickly and comes face to face with a smirking Delia.
“Pshhh, no. Maybe. I-I don’t want to talk about me anymore. What about you? Hmm, why are you here?.....It’s okay. You can trust me.”
Delia smiles at the sincerity and occupies herself with her new crystal pendant, the shiny surface capturing her attention over the uncertain terrain of the dreamy eyes beside her.
“It’s nothing really. Same story as yours with a bit of a twist. A lot of bullshit if you ask me. Asshole boyfriend. Except instead of having the courage to leave like you did, I stayed until I was so miserable that he dumped me…”
Barbara shook her head slowly and put a hand on Delia’s shoulder, forcing her to look into the other woman’s eyes. “Delia… courage is not always in these big grand gestures. It’s in all the little things that you do everyday to stand up for yourself. It’s so important for you to know that.”
“Yeah. I’m gonna be honest , Barbara. I didn’t expect you to be so… spiritually enlightened. You have quite the way with words. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t turned on right now.”
This makes Barbara choke and spit out her drink, a vodka something dribbling down her mouth as a fit of harsh coughs wracked her frame.
“Oh, you heard me silly! I… well, I like you Barbara. A lot. You’re very sweet, hun....would you do me the honor of going with me to the shithole bathroom so I could help you clean up?? Trust me, Vodka does NOT dry well.”
Barbara’s face flushes again, but she can’t seem to tell if it’s the booze or the woman beside her that’s caused it. Looking down the front of her dress, she grimaces at the mess before giving Delia an affirming nod.
At this, Delia takes the blonde by the hand and guides her to the bar bathroom. It’s cramped and smelly. There’s writing all over the thin walls and the beat of the music can be heard as a deep thrum pounds against the tile.
Barbara props herself up on the ledge of the sink as Delia goes to wet some paper towels. Feeling the effects of the alcohol start to kick in, she bravely nudges herself between Barbara's dangling legs.
“Can I?” She gestures to Barbara’s freckled chest, the sticky liquid shining unnaturally against the iridescent lighting.
Barbara manages to squeak out a yes as Delia begins to rub the towel gently over her front. She can feel Barbara’s eyes on her, but she keeps her own glued to the towel and the woman’s chest that’s beginning to heave in front of her. It’s almost too easy, Delia thinks. Like reeling in a fish. Usually, there’s some kind of fight for dominance. Women like to tease a bit more; push her to see just how far she’ll go. But Barbara—she’s melting into Delia’s hands, breath hitching as knuckles graze a covered breast.
This is nothing new to Delia—the setting nor the situation. The difference was, she didn’t want to kick Barbara to the curb after. To make herself scarce and leave this girl still in the aftershocks of an orgasm, panties hanging off a shaking ankle. Not after everything she’s learned about her. Not after the vulnerable stories they shared and the kindness she’s been shown.
Not after she herself has been abandoned in the bathroom after a half-assed hook up, left to pick up the pieces of her fucked up life all alone.
Delia returns her attention back to Barbara, who’s breathing heavily and clutching Delia’s hand in place over her breast. She smiles and slowly leans in for a kiss.
That night, Delia hears her name called a lot. But this time, it doesn’t make her flinch or cower in fear.
It makes her beam. And from that night on, she decides she likes her name quite a lot. She especially likes when it’s being spilled from Barbara’s lips and followed by a series of desperate moans.