I cleaned up the living room and den a bit before checking the bar.
The ice bucket was low, so I dumped out the half-melted remnants and refilled it from the plastic bag in the freezer. People had been hitting the scotch, but the worst damage had been done to the gin and tequila, so I got fresh bottles and opened them.
Lawyers, the group that up most of the guests, seem to have a real taste for booze.
The plastic glasses we'd provided always seem to get separated from the drinkers at a party; there were also abandoned cardboard plates and plastic forks, so I collected all of them. They went into the nearly-full trash bag. I deposited it in the dumpster, out by the garage, and replaced it with a fresh one.
Most of the drunks had gone. It was now about eleven o'clock and there were small groupings of people scattered around, some of them enjoying their conversations, others who seemed to be doing nothing more strenuous than staring into space. Maybe they were thinking of the widows and orphans they'd screwed this week.
I can't say I care much for lawyers, despite my wife being one.
Two couples had found music they liked and were now dancing.
I couldn't see Sherry in any of the groups, but she might be in the kitchen checking on food. I thought about the level of booze, then added a quart of Beam to supplement the nearly-empty bottle there, figuring that this would likely keep thirst at bay until the rest of them headed for home. I topped off the ice bucket again (some of the ice had melted as soon as it hit the bucket) and put out more plastic glasses.
Host duties finally done, I figured it was my turn to enjoy the evening.
I don't like plastic when I'm drinking; I figure good single malt scotch, my tipple of choice, deserves better than that. I grabbed a cut-glass tumbler from the cabinet, not something I was going to put out for guests, and pulled out my private bottle of Lagavulin. A couple of inches went into the glass and I put the bottle right back into the liquor cabinet; I have no intention of wasting my good booze on people who wouldn't appreciate it.
Does that make me a bad host? OK, I can deal with that, better than I can deal with the idea of good Scotch being wasted on people who would barely take time to taste it.
I poured a glass of ice water and had a couple of swallows to take off my thirst. Scotch should be tasted, not guzzled because you're thirsty.
I took one last look into the living room; Sherry was now one of the dancers, and apparently she was having a good time too. I opened the sliding glass door and went out on the deck.
It was a nice night, warm, but not too warm. We'd told people about the pool and hot tub, but so far no one had used either. Still, the deck made a pleasant place to just sit and enjoy my Scotch.
I really didn't know the people at the party very well. They were Sherry's friends and associates from work, and this was a way for her to discharge her social obligations to the company she worked for. We had also invited a couple of neighbors, but I didn't have a lot in common with them either.
Sherry's a junior partner in a law firm, so she knows people from work, but I write for a living. That means I don't get out much; writing's a solitary activity.
I suppose that my writing is as much hobby as profession, at least so far. It's not as if we needed the money.
I like the deck and the grounds back of the house. There are flowers I can see from my studio window, and the view toward the house is nice. I built the deck myself, with help from a couple of friends when we needed to lift heavy beams, and I also did most of the landscaping work. I had a professional put the trees in, someone with the necessary heavy equipment. Now I had a really beautiful place and the studio building I'd built near the back of the property was almost hidden.
Sometimes I think I overdid it, when fall comes and the leaves all seem to find a home in the pool, but mostly it's very relaxing. I do a lot of thinking when I'm not writing, just sitting alone on the deck.
I took a long sip of the scotch, then just leaned back before realizing I wasn't alone. There was a form lying back in the recliner that sat near the end of the deck.
I watched for a moment and then said, "Hello?"
Surprise! The answer didn't come from the recliner, but from a shadow I hadn't even noticed. It was nearly dark out here, just a little moon and the light from the sliding doors, so I hadn't noticed the person leaning against the wall.
"Good evening," a voice replied.
The voice sounded nice, a woman I was sure. She was sitting on the rail where it joined the house, leaning back and looking out at the grounds.
I hadn't really wanted company, but I wasn't prepared to be unsociable either, so I got up and walked over to where she was sitting. As I got closer I could make out details.
She was slim, with a hint of interesting upper development; dark hair, loose, wearing what appeared to be the ubiquitous Little Black Dress. The dress ended somewhere along the upper thigh, pulled up by the way she was sitting on the rail. That was interesting too.
I could now see that the figure in the recliner was a man. Casually dressed, no coat, and sleeping; I could hear a soft snore.
"Hang on a minute," I said. "Be right back."
There's a kind of closet at the other end of the deck. We keep extra beach towels there for people who use the pool or spa, oversized ones. I grabbed a couple and carried them back to where the woman was sitting, then spread the towels over the sleeping figure in the recliner.
"Thanks," she said.
"Yours?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied. "He's had a hard week. Lots of stress, you know? He wanted to stay home, but I thought we should come. We're neighbors, after all, and I think it's a good idea to get to know people, don't you?"
She didn't look familiar, so I asked, "Neighbors?"
"We bought the house down the hill and just got moved in last month."
"The white two story?"
"That's it," she answered.
I thought about the house. I'd seen it advertised for sale, but I hadn't noticed anyone move in. Sometimes I don't pay attention to things, especially when I'm working.
"Nice place. Looks big from the outside."
"It is. More than we need, but the price was in our range, so we grabbed it."
I thought about that for a bit. I noticed she didn't have a drink.
"Get you something from the snack line? Maybe a drink?"
"I'm ready for a drink. What's that in your glass?" she asked.
"Scotch," I answered. "Are you a Scotch drinker?"
"I like it better than mixed drinks. I'm not really into sweet drinks, you know? The taste doesn't appeal to me."
I thought about that for a second.
"OK, be right back."
I got another of the tumblers from the cabinet and poured some of the Lagavulin in. I topped off my own glass, then took a look into the den. Sherry was still dancing, but I couldn't tell if it was the same guy. It was a slow dance and they were really close. I guessed she was enjoying it. She's more of a dancer than I am. I tolerate it, because she's really pretty good, and she's certainly fun to hold. Not exactly shy, either; you can have a lot of fun on the dance floor with someone who looks like Sherry and dances the way she does. I had, and it looked like someone else was now experiencing that fun too. I grinned and went back out on the deck.
I glanced at the sleeper as I handed her the glass of whiskey, but he was still out of it. She saw the movement of my head, and guessed what I was doing.
"I thought about waking him up and taking him home," she said. "But I thought, since he wasn't bothering anyone and he really needed the chance to relax, I could wait a while."
"No problem," I replied.
"You've got a really nice place," she said. "How did you find this?"
"I did a lot of the work myself. The house was already built, but we added on, and later I did most of the work back here. The deck, the landscaping, those are all my work, and I built the garden benches too. I contracted the studio building out. The construction people were able to access the back of the property so they didn't tear up the landscaping while they were working."
"Nice! You work with tools, carpentry, cabinetmaking, stuff like that?"
"It's a hobby. When I need to take a break from the computer I usually end up in the shop."
"Charlie needs something like that. He works hard and when he comes home it's usually dinner and then bed. Some weeks, the only time I see him is on weekends. He really works too hard, you know?" Her tone didn't sound approving.
There was a pause while we both sipped at the Scotch.
"How much room do you have back here?" She asked.
"The house and grounds take up about five acres," I told her. "There's another twenty-five acres behind that, but we don't really use it. We just keep it wild. I had horses at one time and I rode the trails back there, but I didn't ride enough to justify keeping them. Anyway, there's a stable a few miles from here, and I ride there when I feel like it."
"I rode when I was growing up. I stopped when I left for college." There was a wistful note in her voice.
"Riding's fun," I said. "I really like the exercise. There's nothing like a good gallop to recharge your batteries."
I drained my last sip of whiskey.
"Let me get you another one of these ... do you like the Scotch?"
"It's really nice," she said. "I don't think I've had that one before."
.... There is more of this story ...