Note: This is a submission to a story festival started by Girl_Friday_70. The Song is Lady Down on Love and was written by Randy Owen, and performed by the group Alabama. I make no claim to any copyright.
It had been a slow night. Many weeknights are, compared to the bustle of the weekend. I had a small rush of after-work regulars, but they had already disappeared. The remainder of the crowd had either paired off or went home alone.
I informed everyone of last call. Part of being the owner of the Clancy's Pub was that I could close early if I wished. On the opposite side of the coin I had no chance for a social life outside of the bar, and decided long ago that I would not get involved with anyone who was a customer.
There was a young couple in a corner booth that had been lip-locked for the past hour. I had seen them here before a few times, and had checked their ID's. They were old enough to come in, but just barely. They looked like they belonged together and very much in love.
I interrupted them as discretely as possible and waited until they untangled themselves before telling them that I was closing up. They both mumbled an embarrassed apology and hurried out the door, arms wrapped around each other.
I was smiling as I cleared the table when I heard a soft voice behind me. "That would have been Charlie and me many years ago." I turned to see Chris standing in the corner.
Chris and Charlie had met here just after I bought the place. Chris had been a friend since college even though there was no more than friendship between us we had remained close. My first night here, she had come in to wish me luck and try and con me out of a free drink. We had been visiting when a tall, well-muscled man with blonde hair walked up and introduced himself as Charlie Morgan. He and Chris danced the entire night.
It didn't take long for them to become a couple. Within months they had set the wedding date. Charlie had always had a roving eye for the ladies, but everyone hoped that Chris would be able to keep it focused on her. She seemed to have succeeded. The wedding reception was held right here. They had danced their first dance as man and wife on my dance floor. Chris looked as beautiful that day as I had ever seen her. All brides are supposed to be beautiful, but I had never seen her as happy as she was then. When I took a turn to dance with her, she absolutely glowed!
For the first couple years they came in regularly, holding hands and sharing discrete kisses. And every year on their anniversary, they would come in and dance, and it was always to one of Chris' favorite songs. She was a country music fanatic and the group Alabama was at the top of her list. Though not much of the regular crowd played it, I always kept some in the jukebox for her. The quarters would go in and they would dance together until she had played every one of the group's songs.
When Charlie got a promotion and a transfer, I felt the emptiness of her leaving. But she would send me a card or letter, letting me know that things were going well. These contained her hopes and fears, the same things that she had been confiding in me for years. Once in a while, on days special to her and me, she would manage to get a phone call to me and we would once again drift back to the times that we had shared.
Eventually, we drifted apart as friends will sometimes do. We still exchanged Christmas cards, and birthday greetings, but that was the extent of our contact. Months turned into years, and I continued with my life, never marrying, but feeling comfortable with how my life had turned out.
I blinked again to make sure I was really looking at my friend. Even in that dim light, I could see that she had not changed much in almost 10 years. The hair was now shorter but still the same curls. Her body had matured, but in a good way, womanly curves replacing the almost non-existent figure she had had. And she still looked beautiful.
"Chris, why didn't you come over and tell me you were here?" I pulled her into a hug that she willingly returned. She pushed back just far enough to be able to look up into my face.
" I came in while you were trying to get rid of that drunk guy. Last time you wrote you said you still had the pub, so I came down hoping to find you here." She leaned in once again and put her head on my chest. "I really wanted to see you."
I released her and led her to the bar. I poured her a snifter of my best 75-year-old brandy. I locked the front door and shut down the outside lights. She watched as I moved behind the bar, cleaning and getting things ready for the next day. We talked a bit about what had been happening in our lives.