The following post, by Tony Tallon, is the fifth installment of 10, 12th Street Online’s first serial novel. You can read the first four chapters here. We’ll be publishing a new chapter each week.

The bar on Bleecker was all exposed brick and votive candles lighting drunk faces that hovered over glasses of red wine and whiskey—alcoholic earth tones of crimson and brown. He spotted her lonely frame hunched on a barstool, a swizzle stick pressed between her lips, and could make out her jaw jutting to-and-fro, chewing the plastic furiously. He noticed her chestnut curls pulled back, and the elfish points of her ears.

He approached with caution. Something about her demeanor warned of a woman who did not appreciate approach. Her face was blank, and if it weren’t for the swizzle stick, it would seem she was still as stone.  Jeremi took the seat next to her, all too aware of the distance between them and ordered a Jack on the rocks.

Systematically turning his head from one muted TV to another, watching the news to his left, reading the ticker, then the game on his right, Jeremi constantly checked the score. When he turned to the game his eyes landed first on her, noting quickly how her stern and distant gaze had not moved from her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. It placed her petite head on the shelf amidst half filled liquor bottles.

“Did you know,” he finally said, “that Southern Comfort is not a whiskey, but rather a cordial? Most people don’t know that.”

“Very nice,” she said, uninterested.

“My name is Jeremi, with an i,” he said, making a gesture to shake her hand.

“How delightful.”

“Do you have a name?”

Her head finally turned from its reflection and her eyes made first contact. He was stunned by their immediate fury. “Look,” she said,  “you seem like a nice kid, but that’s just it, you’re a kid and I am an old woman, so if you don’t mind I am gonna sit here, slurp down this cheap red wine and pretend that I am someone else.”  She turned back to her reflection and took a swig from her glass.

Jeremi waited a minute, not quite sure what to do. “My parents were part of that group of people who liked to misspell things. They almost named me Philip with an f.”

“I am really not interested.”

“Then why are you still sitting here?”

She shifted on her stool. Her fingers ran across the edge, and her lips puckered. She flipped a curl and Jeremi noted its chestnut brown hue. “I don’t know. That’s a very good question, and I have a better answer.” She took her wine glass and shoved it through the vacant air between them. A wave of red cupped through the air and splashed against his face. “Good night…and by the way, I am much too old for you.”

She collected her things and headed for the door. Jeremi started to wipe his face with cocktail napkins. He was now more aroused for a chase. He followed her out the door and grabbed her hand as she tried to hail a cab.

“Wait,” he said, “How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight. Now, will you leave me alone?”

“Well I am 23, you’re not too old for me, you’re perfect.”His grin showed he was a little too sure of himself. “Let me buy you a drink, or coffee, or tea? Let me sit next to you on a barstool and pretend you think me dashing.”

She let out a sigh. “Fine.”

“Wonderful. And what’s your name?”

“Katherine, and I’m pretty sure it’s spelled correctly.”