There are only two men in the Maple Leaf Hotel bar and grill at three in the afternoon on a Thursday. One is the bartender, Nick Rash, and the other is a fellow Nick hasn’t seen in the hotel before. The unknown man wears a pinstriped three-piece suit in dark grey with no tie, and he slumps over his glass of red wine as though he has no intention of leaving anytime soon. Nick glances intermittently at the man while he tidies the bar, dusting the bottles and polishing the smooth mahogany surfaces. Nick usually likes to chat with his customers but is irritated on this particular afternoon because he was called in to work right before he and Laney walked out the door to go hiking. He’d been planning to propose at Hanging Rock, and instead was working a twelve hour shift. The man didn’t look very interested in talking anyway: the way that the hostess, Vicki, had smiled at the young, clean-shaven man had enticed many previous customers to slip her small slips of paper on which were scribbled phone – or room – numbers, but this man had entered the bar without a second glance in her direction, heading straight to a barstool and ordering a glass of shiraz. The one currently in front of him would be his third.
As Nick reaches up to shelve several low-balls, he notices the man’s glass is getting low. “More wine, sir?”
The man looks up. In the moment before his eyes slid into focus, Nick recognizes pain, the same look his girlfriend got when they took their ancient Labrador, the one she’s had since she was a teenager, to the vet to be put down. “How about a full bottle?”
Nick comes out of the restaurant’s back room carrying two bottles of shiraz. At the rate the drinking gentleman is going, it won’t take him long to drink a single bottle. Nick sits one bottle down behind the bar and screws open the cork of the other. While he pours the man another glass, the man slides a credit card across the counter. “Might as well open up a tab. Thanks.”
Keying the card information in, Nick reads the man’s name: Richard Gregory. Richard isn’t paying attention to anything other than the stem of his wineglass as he swivels slowly. By the time Nick finishes at the register, Richard is filling his glass nearly to the brim.
Nick holds the man’s credit card out, tentatively. “Are you…doing alright, sir?”
Richard shakes his head. “My best friend is getting married in the ballroom here at six.”
Nick doesn’t know what to say other than, “Congratulations,” which he immediately regrets.
“My best friend is the bride.” Nick breathes in sharply, surprised, and he can tell that Richard notices. The glasses of wine are taking their toll and he says, “She’s getting ready right now with all her bridesmaids. She asked me to be a groomsman but I don’t know the others and it’s awkward. You’re supposed to marry your best friend, right? That’s what everyone says. And in three hours or so, I’m going to be standing at the front of the aisle watching her walk down it. Except I’m not the one she’ll be walking towards.” Richard throws back the glass of wine like it’s a shot of something stronger.
Nick doesn’t know what to say. His girlfriend is his best friend.
Writing assignment for class with the following parameters: two men, strangers, and some type of restaurant/bar.