Beth pushed open the door of The Thirsty Dog, and looked inside. Her friends didn’t seem to be anywhere. Hoping she was early, Beth pushed open the door and headed to the counter. She pulled up her white skirts, and shimmied into the barstool. The massive amounts of fabric that made up her costume just seemed to get in the way. She was dressed as the Greek muse Euterpe, complete with the flute. It was part of a huge group costume. Everyone was dressed as different parts of Greek philosophy, and her closest friends had decided to go as muses. It was supposed to be an a”muse”ing Halloween. She didn’t pick the name. And she didn’t pick the bar either. Looking around, it didn’t seem like a type of bar her friends would visit. But far be it for her to judge.
“What can I get for you?” the bartender asked her, putting a napkin in front of her and breaking her train of thought.
“Whisky sour, please.”
“Can I see some ID?”
With a small sigh, Beth pulled out her ID. At this rate, she’d be carded until she was fifty.
The bartender looked between her face and the picture on the ID, a slightly skeptical look on his face. Eventually, he handed back her ID, and went off to make her drink.
While she’s waiting for her drink, she pulled out her phone. After shooting a quick text to her friend, she began looking around the bar again. It wasn’t a bad place, just a little darker than most bars she was used to. Everyone also seemed a little rougher than she was used to, but they seemed normal enough. A few guys seemed to be watching a sports game, and a couple of people were shooting pool in the back. And one guy was sitting near her. She took in his leather jacket, goatee, and shaggy brown hair. And the fact that he was eyeing her.
Thankfully, the bartender was coming back with her drink. She murmured a “thank you”, and took a small sip. It was a strong drink. Beth put it down, and checked her phone. No response yet. But, peaking at the guy sitting next to her, she saw that he was still staring.
“What are you supposed to be?” he asked, taking a sip of beer. “A frat boy?”
“I’m a muse.”
“Just one muse?”
“I come as part of a matched set. A group of us decided to do it. I'm just waiting for them to come here.“
Beth's phone vibrated noisily on the bar top. Scrambling, she checked her text, and looked around wildly.
“What?” the man asked.
“Apparently, they're all here,” Beth said, typing a reply.
“You're the only one here dressed in bed sheets.”
“I can see that,” she said, taking one more look around the bar. She had a bad feeling about this.
Her phone vibrated again and Beth sighed, typing out another reply.
“Let me guess,” the man drawled. “Different bar?”
“On the other side of the city. I knew it was too good to be true,” Beth said, taking a big gulp of her drink. “This place is relatively close to my house. I actually walked here.”
The man just grunted, as he finished his beer. They sat in silence for a bit, the man watching the game. Beth just nursed her drink, wondering what she would do tonight. She decided she wasn't going to let a little mistake ruin her favorite holiday.
“So, what are you dressed as?”
“Just me, myself, and I.”
Bwth just laughed. She had always been told that she had an infectious laugh. She could almost believe it, as she could swear that her companion cracked a smirk. It at least got him taking. They talked about sports, the recent construction on 181st, the best way to drink gin, and Halloween, of course. Apparently Halloween just wasn't this man's thing.
“Don't really see the point,” he said. “It's just another day.”
“Oh, come on. It’s one of those holidays where you just get to have fun. Relive the glory days of childhood.”
To that, he just grunted. Beth was learning he did that a lot. Especially when he had said everything he was going to say.
“I’m Beth, by the way,” she said with a bright smile.
The continued to chat, until Daryl excused himself for a smoke. Something changed as part of the mayoral elections. No smoking inside. Beth didn't mind, however. She took this opportunity to hit the ladies room. She took a look in the mirror, as she washed her hands. A little more lip gloss wouldn't be too much, right? She dabbed a little on, pressing her lips together to make an even coat. Looking back, she smiled. Perfect.
She was just slipping the lip gloss back into her purse, when she stopped. There were three young men standing in the hallway by the bathrooms. She hoped it was just a line. Beth moved down the hallway, heading back to the bar proper, when an arm shot across the hallway.
“Excuse me,” she said, trying to sound both polite and authoritative.
“Saw you sitting at the bar. Love your costume,” he smirked, his eyes visibly scanning her body. It made Beth’s skin crawl. “My names Jack. Want to head to a party with me and a few friends of mine?”
“No, I’m fine.” she said trying to move past the arm. It didn't move
“Oh, come on darling. You’re too pretty to be alone tonight,” another one said.
“I’m fine, really.” she said, pushing her way through. “I’m just waiting for some friends.”
“You’re not waiting for anyone.” Jack said, his hand grabbing her wrist. “We heard you say that your friends are at another bar. You said it to the guy at the counter.”
“Leave me alone,” Beth said, ripping her wrist free. She made it into the back bar near the pool tables. Unfortunately, the billiards players were nowhere to be seen.
“Bitch,” Jack snapped, grasping for her wrist again. “We’re just offering you a good time.”
“Well, I don’t want a “good time” with you,” she spat, jerking her wrist away. She wasn't looking where she was going, however. She hit the short side of the table and stopped. She turned around to see the three moving towards her. Slipping her hand into her purse, she shouted “Leave me alone!” hoping to be heard over the noise of the music and the television.
Her body tensed as they didn't stop. She dropped her purse, something shiny on her hands.
Daryl walked up to the group of young men, putting himself between them and Beth. “She said to leave her alone. I’d listen if I was you.”
“What’s it to you?” Jack spat. “This is between us and the lady.”
“We don’t take kindly to your type ‘round here.” Daryl growled.
The boys look up, and paled slightly. Beth peeked behind her shoulder, and saw that many of the patrons seem ready to jump from their chairs. They may not have heard their argument before, but they knew now. Nearly everyone was glaring at the boys.
Jack seemed to mumble something to Daryl, his stance losing its threatening stance.whatever he said, however, did not seem to be enough for Daryl.
“You will be leaving now,” Daryl said, nearly growling.
“And if we don't want to?”
“You can leave by yourself, or we'd be happy to help you out.”
Jack looked around again, and seemed to make up his mind
With a shrug, he motioned to the others. “Let's go.”
Daryl watched the boys, the door slamming shut, before he turned to Beth.
“Are you okay?”
“I could have handled it. I didn’t need your help,” she snapped, pulling out her hand. On her index and middle finger were two spikes. She opened her hand so Daryl could see the little cat key chain that her hands are slipped into. “I could have defended myself.”
Daryl just looked at her. It wasn't a look that she could decipher. After looking at Beth long enough to make her squirm, Daryl said quietly “You shouldn’t have to defend yourself.”
“My daddy taught me how,” Beth said. “He said everyone should be able to defend themselves.”
Daryl nodded slowly. “Still,” he said, turning towards the bar top, his hands in his pockets, “I wasn’t going to let them do something to you. No one here would.”
“You don’t even know me,” Beth murmured.
“Know you enough to not let you get assaulted.”
With that, Daryl walked back to the counter, with Beth following close behind him. She slid into her seat, and grabbed her drink. She tipped it back, and drained her glass. She groaned and shuddered as she put the glass down.
“Do you want another one?” Daryl asked.
“No,” she croaked. “I think I'm good.”
“Where did you get that anyway. That key chain.”
“My daddy gave it to me when I moved to the city” she said as she put the keychain on the bartop. “For the same reason he taught me how to fight. Because you should always protect yourself.” She looked at her empty drink, and dug into her purse. Putting a few bills on the counter, she stood up and smoothed her dress down.
“I think I’m going to head home.”
“I’d like to walk you home, if you don’t mind,” Daryl said, getting up from his stool.
“I haven’t had that much to drink,” Beth said, with a slight smile.
“It’s not you I’m worried about.”
“Do you think they’d wait for me?” Beth asked, quietly.
“I wouldn’t put it past them.”
“Alright,” she said after a moment.
“Alright,” Daryl said. “Put it on my tab, Terry.”
Beth followed Daryl out of the bar, and down the street towards her home. As they headed into the surrounding residential area, the yells and shouts of kids could still be heard.
“I love Halloween,” she sighed, looking around at the homes decorated for the occasion.
“Mmmphm.” Daryl said, looking around.
“Carving pumpkins, wearing costumes, trick-or-treating. These are the best parts from being a kid!” she said, smiling at him.
“Can’t say really. I never did that as a kid. My... family wasn’t like that,” Daryl mumbled.
“You should do something next year,” Beth said quietly.
“I’m a little old to be going door to door for candy.”
Beth just laughed, the mood lightening considerably. “You should still carve a pumpkin. Keep those spirits away.”
After that, they just chatted. Beth learned about his carpentry business, his volunteer work with the local youth program, and his love of motorcycles. She told him about her work as the local librarian, programming she’d plan, and her love of good pizza. Before they both knew it, they had come to her steps.
“This is my place,” Beth said, a slight flush on her face. She suddenly felt a little nervous. How did you end this? It wasn’t really a date, but she’d had a good time all things considering. Daryl seemed a little nervous as well, looking at his feet rather than at her face. Beth took a big breath and held out her hand.
“Thank you Daryl.”
Daryl mumbled something as he shook her hand. Beth climbed up the stairs, waving a goodbye as she slipped into her door.
Eventually Beth goes back to the bar, looking for Daryl. Terry, the bartender, tells her that he only comes in on Thursday nights, to watch the sports games. Next Thursday, she sees him at the bar, and sits down next to him. It took over a month to convince him to let her take him out. As a thank you, she insists on telling him. They go out the next Friday together, eating at her favorite pizza place. And eventually that becomes a tradition too. They see each other every Thursday and Friday night until he asks if she’d like to go on a ride with him. The beginning of another tradition. The next Halloween, they dress up together, as a couple. She’s a bear and he’s a lumberjack, which isn’t far from his normal look either. Every year, the two of them dress in couples costumes; 50’s sweethearts, Bonnie and Clyde, and eventually Popeye and Olive Oyl. Until things change.
After that it’s always costumes for three.