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Jennifer Ledbury

Lucy peers at me through the opposite side of a smudge clinging on an oversized wine glass. Her leveled gaze suggests one last ditch effort in swaying my decision to ruin this cleanse I am supposedly on.

“What day did you make it to?” She asks, her voice rising over the metal shaker she’s furiously jiggling in the palm of her hand above her head.

“Uh, 7?” I lie. The corners of my mouth twitch, appreciating her attempts at interest in this pledge I don’t remember making to myself, let alone telling her about.

I flash her a wide grin and jerk my chin toward the glass of rocks. She nods and pours the vibrant green liquid over the rocks and slides it across to me. I wrap my fingers around the thin stem, raising the wide basin to my lips and swallow. Most days Lucy is already moving behind the bar mixing my drink before I cross the bar, folding myself onto a stool. It’s why I still come to this place.

“Do you work on the lot?” A lilting voice two seats over slams into focus and introduces itself as Crista.

A familiar yet foreign melody croons over the speakers.  Crista asks Lucy if she’s a fan of the singer the voice belongs to. Lucy tells her it’s just the ipod rotation and that she doesn’t control the rotation, a twinge of annoyance creeping into her voice. I watch Crista’s face rise and fall so quickly that I almost miss it.

“I see this singer, whatever her name is, on the lot sometimes,” I add. Crista’s face brightens and she scoots closer to me.

“She’s been sober for eight years now. I guess she was a boozehound before. Her assistant found her unconscious in the bathroom once,” She blurts. “Anyway, this girl is like, my idol. I just don’t understand how someone can do that to themselves.” Crista’s voice is small, like she’s grieving the loss of an old friend.  She waves her hand at Lucy, who places another shot of amber liquid in front of her.

“Laura Turner, we love you, please get up?” I mutter.

Crista blinks hard.

“It’s from a poem.” I release a dry scrape of a laugh.

 “Never heard of it.” She tilts her head and slams back the shot.

 “If you ever see her on the lot again, could you like, text me?” Crista roots in her bag, retrieving a pen and crumpled sheet of notebook paper. She scrawls her number in spiky calligraphy across the top.

I am too busy wondering how she got her hands on a vintage Waterman, I barely notice her crook her finger to initiate a pinky promise. I am about to raise my finger when Crista pushes the empty glass across the bar and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. She slides off her stool, steadying herself on a pair of towering high heels, and tumbles toward the door.
I place a wrinkled 20-spot on the table and turn to leave. That thought from earlier creeps back into my head and I wrestle it away. I step onto the sidewalk and the heat hits me like a wall. Sirens howl to life nearby. I dart across the street to the lot.  An ambulance growls at the curb. A face peeks out from underneath a scratchy white sheet. Sweat-drenched chocolate brown hair plastered to her forehead. Lipstick smeared across her cheeks. I swallow and turn on my heels. I wonder if she knew. If she tried just as hard as I did to chip away at that nagging thought. “I just don’t understand how anyone could do that,” Crista’s voice pounds in my ears. Her face swollen and blue as a fountain pen.

Jennifer Ledbury is a writer living in California.

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