Jay arrived first. He glanced around and, not seeing Veronica, slipped his bulky frame into a sticky booth. He was already pissed off. When Veronica had called him he had agreed to meet her without really thinking. It was only after they had hung up that he remembered how much he hated her. Theirs had always been a relationship of necessity. Running meaty hands through short brown hair he ordered a scotch from the apathetic bartender and waited.
She slid into the booth across from him without a word. The delicate lavender hue of her sweater contrasted with her grown out roots and tawdry eyes. He imagined that she must have picked it up at a Goodwill somewhere. Maybe she liked how different it was from the rest of her wardrobe of thigh-high boots and low-cut shirts. She drew a cigarette from her purse and lit it with course hands that possessed a junkie’s tremor. She eyed him daring him to speak. To bad he never thought of her as a threat.
“Why don’t you just tell me what you need, Veronica."
She glared at him. “You know what I need. Don’t dick around with me, Jay. We both know that I have friends that clean their teeth with guys like you.”
Smoke drifted from her mouth as she spoke obscuring her eyes. She tapped bitten nails on the scarred table waiting for him to speak. Jay wasn’t talking. He was content to watch her growing agitation.
He wasn’t about to spend his whole night in some shit-hole bar though, even if the smell of Veronica’s desperation was intoxicating. Some things never changed. “If you have all of these friends, why are you calling me in the middle of the night and begging me to meet you?”
She flicked the butt of her cigarette at him missing his face by mere inches. His lip twitched but he suppressed any other signs that might have surfaced of the violent rage that rose in him. “I don’t have time for this shit,” she hissed. “I haven’t slept in three days. Either you are going to help me or not. I know that you made up your mind before you even showed up so why don’t you just hand over the needle and we can go from there.”
Jay’s eyes narrowed as he studied her. This was a side that he hadn’t suspected she possessed. She was normally a mousy, jittery woman with a whiny quality to her voice that always made him want to slap her. Veronica’s eyes held real steel in them.
He took a sip of the cheap scotch that was in front of him and tried to collect his suddenly buzzing thoughts. A thin layer of sweat broke out on his forehead. “You’re right, I had already decided to sell to you before I even got here. I would’ve skipped out otherwise. I need the payment upfront though. I can’t give you a loan this time. I’m not sure how much longer my supply is going to be good.”
Veronica smiled in self-satisfaction. She lit another cigarette and took a long drag of it before replying. “I can pay. I can pay better than you were expecting. Better than your piss-ant dreams could imagine. It’ll take a few years to pan out, but I think that it’ll be worth the wait.”
She was too smug to be lying. Veronica wasn’t smart enough to fake that. “Hand it over already. I want to get the hell out of here. I’m sick of looking at you.”
“I’m sorry, Jay, but you’re just gonna have to wait. I know that I haven’t been the most honest girl in town but I’ve always been good for it, haven’t I? I’ve always paid up eventually. This is a good opportunity for you, Jay. I wouldn’t pass it up.”
Jay studied her face for a long moment. He was starting to understand what was going on here. He hadn’t seen or heard from Veronica for over a year, then she called him and asked for a fix like no time had passed. If his guess was corrected then she was right. It would be too good to pass up. “Shit, okay.” He slid a hypodermic needle, half full of milky silver fluid, across the table. He didn’t bother to conceal it; this wasn’t the kind of bar where anyone would care. “Here’s your fucking fix. I expect my payment, Veronica. Don’t go around promising anything to anyone else.”
She wasn’t listening to him anymore; her eyes were locked on the needle as she slowly reached out that junkie hand and slipped it into her purse. She nodded along to what Jay said. She stood no longer interested in spending any more time with him now that she had gotten what she came for. She turned to go but stopped short and spun on a five-inch heel to lock eyes with Jay. A dreamy smile flitted across her face. She smoothed down her sweater, “Do you like my new sweater?” she asked him distractedly.
“What? Oh yeah, it’s a nice color on you. It brings out the blue in your eyes.”
“I got it when I was a grown-up.”
She shook her head and strode purposefully out of the bar. Jay was left staring after her with an acidic taste in his mouth. His mind reeled with the possibilities of what Veronica had offered him. He ached for it to be true and not just a junkie’s lie to score.
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Portland Fiction Project
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