Write on Wednesday: Choose Your Own Adventure - Revisit an old prompt
For this week, I chose "Songbird" - Take a song and write the story behind the lyrics... not something inspired by the lyric, but the flesh and bones of the story.
I did this, but did not keep it to flash fiction, creating a short story instead.
Picture Postcards from LA (song by Joshua Kadison)
Rachel slid into the driver’s seat of her Jetta and smoothed her hands across her black slacks, hoping that they would remain wrinkle-free. She checked her rearview mirror, slid a pair of sunglasses over her green eyes, snapped her seatbelt and placed the key in the ignition. When the engine turned over, John Mellencamp blared over the speakers, assuring her that he was an American, and she smiled.
The sun toasted her skin through the sunroof as she headed down I-5 to Eddie's Shipwreck. With the gorgeous weather, she was hardly in the mood to go to work, but the desire to save money for a move to California provided the necessary incentive. She was tired of leading an empty life and thought that an acting career might just be the thing for her to feel fulfilled. But a move to LA would require serious money.
She’d been putting a lot into savings, but she still didn’t feel comfortable with the cushion she’d set aside. It was hard for her to determine whether that was reality or just fear of change.
Refusing to think about finances or slinging drinks for her last few minutes of freedom and sunshine, she cranked the volume dial to the right and sang her stress away until she reached the waterfront restaurant.
Rachel stepped through the heavy oak door into the lounge and immediately wrinkled her eyes into a squint to try to adjust to the dimness of the room. The sun still hovered along the slope of the horizon, but not much light made it through the small porthole-style windows in the nautical-themed bar. Dean looked up from his spot at the bar. He gave her a shy nod. She scanned the crowded area for an empty table. Not seeing one, she smiled. It was going to be a good night.
Crossing the scuffed wood floor, she stepped behind the glass wall at the back of the bar, shifted her focus and plucked her timecard out of its slot. The clock chugged as it stamped the manila card with a 6:52 in indigo ink. She replaced the card and shrugged out of her jacket. Undoing the top button on her white shirt, she repositioned 'the girls' in the demi-cup bra she’d purchased earlier in the day. Any advantage I can get will help. Rachel looked up and noticed Dean watching her through the glass. She poked her tongue out at him before smiling and shimmying for good measure. The tip of his ears reddened at his hairline. He down-shifted his eyes and rearranged the bottles of mixer in front of him. Rachel pressed her lips against the glass, leaving a red kiss for him between the Jack Daniels and Goldschlager.
Customers littered the small round tables throughout the bar. Blue votive candles in clear glass holders peeked between drink glasses and flicked light across navy blue linen tablecloths. Rachel wove her way through the tables, bustling liquor and hope to the businessmen and earning every tip. Being 32 with a 20-something figure and sunshine-good looks, she appreciated the fact that she didn’t need to work hard to receive a lot of tips; however knowing that did not deter her from providing great service.
By 11:30, most of the customers had cleared out, leaving a few hardcore regulars lining the bar and filling a couple of tables in front of the piano. Once Rachel fulfilled her drink orders, she made her way to the piano to take a break. Will acknowledged her approach and scooted to one side of the bench. He continued to play as she sat down next to him.
“Does it bother you to play for such a small crowd?” she whispered.
Will smiled. “Nope.”
His strong fingers skimmed the keys and moved with a fluid motion that appeared effortless.
“Do you want company tonight?” she asked, tracing the seam of his blue jeans.
“I thought you were giving me up,” he replied. “It’s been a several weeks now. Are you sure you want to fall off that wagon again?”
“Shut up,” she stated. “Do you have to be an ass?” Rachel smiled in spite of losing her resolve. Will was a known variable in her loneliness equation.
“Yes, yes I do. But the bigger question is why do you want to be with an ass?” he responded.
The truth of his question slapped her like a cold wet towel.
“You’re right, you know. Maybe I should find a good guy.”
“Like Dean?” Will asked, waiting for a reaction.
Rachel glanced at the bar and saw Dean staring at her. He looked away as soon as her eyes met his.
“Yes, like Dean. He’s kinda sweet. I’m sure he wouldn’t hassle me if I wanted to spend the night with him,” Rachel said.
“He’d probably drop dead on the spot if you told him that wanted to spend the night with him.” He lowered his voice. “It would be his dream come true and he wouldn’t know what to do.”
“You think so?” she questioned. “Do you think he dreams about me?”
Will finished one song and started another. “I’m sure he does. Most of the guys in here do. But Dean is too nice. You wouldn’t be able to stay with a guy like him. You need one with a little edge.”
“Oh right. A guy with an edge? Hmm…” she twirled her hair around her finger. “Like you?” she asked.
“Yep. Just like me.
She fought her sudden annoyance that he would assume she needed someone like him. But she watched his fingers trail across the ivory and recalled, in vivid detail, each stroke he made on her body the last time they’d been together. A chill ran down her spine.
“But guys like you don’t want a girl like me… at least not on a full-time basis. Remember?”
“That’s not exactly true,” Will said.
“True enough,” Rachel replied. She had spent the last several months trying to figure out why he didn’t want to be with her for more than a repeat one-night stand. The sudden disgust with herself over that pathetic question hastened her decision to get away.
“Hey. Is this the month you’re leaving for Los Angeles to start your acting career?” Will asked.
“Nice change of subject, William,” she quipped, feeling as if he had just read her mind. She fiddled with the extra sheet music while he continued to play. “I’m not sure yet. But I think that I’ll be around for a little while. That’s not going to freak you out now, is it?”
“Me? Freak out?” Will asked.
He’ll never change. Rachel patted his leg, thankful that she didn’t have serious feelings for him. "Don't worry. I'll be leaving soon enough, and I'll send you a postcard from LA."
Jake, one of the regulars, strolled over to the piano, interrupting the repartee by placing three crumpled dollar bills in Will’s jar.
“Hey Rachel… will you sing us a song?” Jake asked.
She blushed and smiled.
“I don’t know about that,” she said, feigning modesty.
Will bumped her with his arm.
“C’mon… you know you’ve been waiting for someone to ask,” Will said.
Rachel stood and curtsied before taking her place in front of the piano.
“Come Away with Me?” she suggested to Will.
He began and she straightened her outfit before starting to sing the Norah Jones tune. The room fell silent. She continued to croon to the regulars and smiled as she measured their reactions. Tips would be plentiful this evening; the trip to California might happen sooner than she expected.
Her eyes met Dean’s across the bar and he actually held her gaze for longer than a seconds. I could be with a nice guy. I could deal with that. In fact, maybe if I had a nice guy in my life, I might stick around.
She finished her song to a rousing round of applause and took a bow. Dean waved a drink in the air and set it on the bar with a napkin. She walked to the bar and picked up the glass. The drink was just the way she liked it.
Rachel leaned across the bar, clasping the glass in her hands, mere inches from Dean’s waist.
“Hiya, handsome. Thanks for the drink. You are just too sweet for words.”
Dean took a step back, creating a small amount of space between him and Rachel’s hands.
She leaned forward another inch, pressing her arms together and highlighting her cleavage. Her action did not go unnoticed; Dean’s eyes flickered toward the deep ‘v’ of her shirt.
“Uh, you’re welcome. You have a great voice,” Dean wiped at an imaginary spot with a damp bar towel.
“You’re going to rub a hole into the counter,” Rachel teased.
“So… are you having a good night?” she asked.
“Yeah, things are going pretty well for a Thursday,” he said.
“Yeah, for me too.”
Rachel sat on the barstool and nursed her drink. Dean moved across to serve a customer another round. She admired him as he worked. He wore a light blue shirt that stretched across his broad shoulders and tapered into the waist of his jeans. His strong forearms moved smoothly as he grabbed glasses and bottles and created drinks with precision. He had short brown hair that looked like it was mid-point between cuts and one small piece fell above his eyebrow. His soft brown eyes were framed with thick lashes that looked almost girlish. Dean had Hollywood looks and a sweet personality – a dangerous combination.
Her mind whirled around and around. She imagined him slowly undressing… then feeling his strong body entwined with hers. She could picture him in the morning, looking rumpled as the sunshine streamed through her bedroom window. She could see him bringing her flowers for no reason, cooking for her when she was sick, meeting her parents, relaxing in front of the fire while she rubbed his back, playing frisbee in the park with a dog, carrying a toddler on his shoulders, and growing old.
Dean turned and caught Rachel staring at him. He smiled.
“What?” he asked.
It was her turn to be embarrassed.
“I was just wondering if you ever thought about acting?”
“Uh, no,” he said. “Why do you ask?” He started slicing lemons with a small paring knife.
“No real reason,” she answered. “You just have the looks for it, that’s all.”
“Aren’t you going to try to get into acting?” he asked. “I’d heard that you were getting ready to head to LA.”
She suddenly felt foolish and superficial. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I haven’t really decided yet.”
“What’s holding you back?”
She twirled the last bit of liquid in her glass.
“The truth?” she asked, not quite sure if she was ready to give it.
“I am a bartender,” Dean smiled. “You know that everyone tells their bartender the truth.” He winked at her and dried his hands on a clean white towel.
“I’m not sure if it is really what I want, or if I’m just bored,” she admitted. Her face flushed with a slight hint of pink. “That’s the first time I said that out loud.”
“Oh,” he said. He folded his hands together and leaned his elbows on the counter. “Will said that it was a sure thing and that you had already started to pack.”
“I think he was exaggerating,” she replied. “I have no real plan or timeline yet.”
“Oh,” Dean said again.
He gave her a knowing smile. “I guess Will was just trying to make sure I wasn’t going to pursue you.”
Rachel raised her eyebrows. “You had thought about it?” she asked.
“I had thought about it. Probably only once… or twice… or fifty times,” he replied.
“So he scared you off?” she hid her sudden disappointment.
He paused. “Only temporarily, I guess.”
She looked up at him.
“Would you like to get breakfast after your shift? I know this little diner that serves great food,” Dean took Rachel’s glass and rinsed it.
“Sure,” she said, smiling.
She got up from the stool and headed back to tend her tables with a genuine smile on her face and a mental note to unpack the boxes in her spare bedroom.