The boy, and he was a boy, had taken to ‘accidentally’ brushing her forearm as he gesticulated, which he did a lot of. He was talking about, well, he was talking about something but she wasn’t listening. All she could think about was how his fringe looked like it had been cut using a ruler and if he was aware of how it looked. Lying about her age on the dating app had seemed like such a good idea when it meant she could replace the endless bald men holding fish with, well, something else.
He’d suggested the bar. She’d expected comfortable seats and cold wine, maybe with a piano in the background, what she’d arrived at was, as best as she could tell, a tiny disco. Nobody was dancing yet, but with the music loud enough to prevent any functional conversation she assumed it was only a matter of time. She yawned and sucked on her cocktail, which seemed to be made entirely of sugar and neon, and wished it was a French press coffee.
Somewhere in the activity he’d stopped talking and left the table, she couldn’t say exactly when. Moments later he reappeared through a vape cloud and placed three fresh drinks on the table. A new bottle of blue fizz for him and a short glass of what appeared to be cough medicine floating in Tizer for each of them.
‘Jagerbomb,’ he said. ‘To keep you awake’.
She picked hers up and sipped at it, it tasted like Lynx Africa, just as everything had since he’d hugged her on arrival. He laughed and downed his in one before raising his eyes to suggest she do the same. Against her better judgement, she obeyed, and for the first time in ten years she felt a sudden urge to vomit for a reason that wasn’t morning sickness. Her throat became lined so thickly with what she could only assume was alcoholic glue that she feared her daughter was about to become an orphan.
The boy resumed talking.
Behind him, a woman sat alone at the next table. At least, she thought it was a woman, it’s always harder to tell with girls. The woman was drinking what appeared to be a coffee in a martini glass and smiling back. They exchanged glances and she felt as though the woman understood her whole situation, but maybe that was just how all the sugar made it feel.
‘Anyway, I gotta whizz,’ the boy’s smooth words hung in the air as he disappeared into the darkness. The white of his ankles, where his socks should have been, flashed in the lights like the reflectors on her toddler’s trike pedals.
She looked back to the woman, but the woman was gone.
‘If we leave now, we can be somewhere the drinks don’t taste of chemicals before he gets back,’ came the sudden whisper in her ear. It was accompanied by the first aroma of the night that hadn’t stung her nostrils.
She looked over to the toilet doors in the distance, took one last glance at her DayGlo drink, stood, turned, and took the hand of the stranger with the soft voice and the refreshing smell.
Perhaps it wasn’t her age she should have changed on the profile, she thought.