Authors: Champagne Jackson
It was gearing up to be a rowdy night at the bar. I could tell from the combination of crazy factors we had going in the mix. There was a UFC match on that night and we were the only bar in about a thirty mile radius showing the fights.
Besides that, it was a Saturday and hot as hell here in Southern Mississippi and we had air conditioning. And besides that, there was talk of some sort of motorcycle convention over in Florida and we’d had bad boys on bad bikes going through town all day long, older guys and younger guys, grizzled with long beards and handsome with clean shaven faces except for little soul patches.
On the back of their bikes rode their women, tattooed broads with cleavage flowing out of their tops.
The Cloister Lounge was usually a pretty quiet place but a couple times a year, it blew up. And this was going to be one of those times.
You should know my name. It’s Tia. Tia Madison—pretty fancy name, huh? I’m not a fancy girl, not by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve lived down in these parts my whole life, all nineteen years of it.
I graduated high school last year and in theory, I’m still saving up money for college. Just about no one else in my family thinks I’ll be going, though. No one in my family goes to college. Just about no one in my high school went to college. Black girls like me don’t go to college, I guess.
Besides that, I’m a bigger girl. Not fat, I’d say, but I’ve definitely got boobs.
Boobs that guys on their bikes notice from a couple miles away.
And an ass that looks fantastic in my cut-off shorts, with my light blonde hair put up in pigtails.
An ass that manages to get squeezed four or five times a night, even on a quiet night.
It was still early at the Cloister Lounge and the regulars were just starting to trickle in.
The smell of French fries, home cooked barbecue, and cheap beer filled the hot summer air outside and the locals, hard-working, hard-drinking boys, were ready to spend their week’s paycheck on a good time.
“Annie, darling, when are you gonna’ quit this life of slinging drinks and let me make you an honest woman?” one of the regulars, a sixty-year old truck driver named Dan, called out to me.
He’d been flirting with me like that ever since I started and I knew he meant nothing by it. I smiled and winked at him.
“I gotta’ see that ring first, Dan!”
“Nah, she gonna’ come home with me tonight,” said Billy-Bo, the owner of the drug-store down the street. “Ain’t that right, gorgeous?”
“Ring, gentleman, this little lady needs a ring.”
It was nice, the way the banter picked up. These guys tipped me well and they would beat up the owner of any wandering hands. I liked having them around.
On account of it being so hot, I wore just short-shorts and a tight white t-shirt, a couple sizes too small for me, that showed off my mid-riff.
Initially, I was a little worried… Sometimes, looking in the mirror, I feel like I can’t wear stuff like that.
It’s important, when it comes to times like that, to remember to say fuck it and wear it if you goddamn well want. And so that’s what I did.
And the men winked at me all the same.
It was around eight that the bar started to fill up. The fights on TV were in full swing and I was in full swing too, slinging drinks and dropping off orders of French fries. I love it when it’s busy like this.
Not only is it exciting but I know I’m destined to make some good money in tips by the end of the night.
Nothing feels better than a back pocket full of ones after a long night in the bar.
Then they came in. Bikers. Six of them, followed by five more, decked out in leather, chains, the works. I tensed up—something, something about them made me nervous. Like these boys were looking for trouble and they wouldn’t stop till they found it.
They sat down, ordered drinks, cheap beers all around. I went over to see if they wanted any food.
I wanted to shrink away and let one of the other girls take them, let one of the other girls deal with the hands up the shorts or under the shirt, but I forced myself to stride towards them.
I wasn’t about to let myself be scared off by a bunch of immature assholes. No way. No how.
“Heya, boys. Y’all be eating tonight?” I asked as sweetly as possible. I wasn’t about to start any fights I didn’t have to.
“Oh, well, lookie here,” one of them said. He grinned up at me with a disgusting mouth full of fake teeth. He even had a fake eye, I realized after a second of the pale, milky glass orb staring back at me. That was creepy.
How the hell did he ride a bike with one of those? Did he have any depth perception?
“What a cute little thing you are,” he roared. “I’d like to throw you over my hog and make you squeal, girlie.”
I blushed and tried not to roll my eyes. I’d heard worse at the bar. Way worse. Before I was even eighteen.
I’d started working at the Cloister Lounge just washing glasses when I was fourteen. Men would come over and call out filthy things to me. At first, it bothered me. I’d go home and cry afterwards.
But then, the repetition of it all and seeing who these men were, seeing how pathetic they were, coming back night after night to hoot and holler disgusting things at a fourteen year old girl… After a certain point, I stopped caring.
Maybe I even started to feel bad for the assholes?
“I think a round of pulled pork sandwiches,” the one-eyed biker said with a lascivious grin. “Are you the piggy they’re putting on those buns?”
I scowled and stalked away. As I turned, I felt a hand fly out and slap my ass. I winced—they slapped harder than most of the usual perverts would but I tried not to think about it as I put their order in.
About their time the food for the bikers was up, someone else walked into the bar.
I’ll never forget the way he looked as he ducked through the doorway. He was tall, maybe six feet four inches or even bigger, and built like a starting quarter back: a lean, chiseled mountain of muscle that started with powerful legs, tight haunches that made it look like he could leap over the bar and punch someone’s lights out or, alternatively, toss you up into his arms and throw you over his motorcycle before you could say “hike.”
Those legs let up to broad shoulders, a back like an upside down triangle, and a young, unshaven face, with the beginnings of lines smattered across his handsome visage.
His eyes met mine and I could have sworn that they flashed for a second, turning a brilliant shade of crimson before going back to an almost inky black-brown.
I brought the bikers their platter of sandwiches and didn’t hang around long enough for them to make lewd comments about my butt, even though I could tell they had been saving some up.
The newcomer had taken a table back in the corner and seemed to be taking in everything around him, memorizing details, keeping an eye on the TV, an eye on me, an eye on the bar, an eye on the bikers. Yet he didn’t seem nervous at all. He was a perfectly passive observer and seemed totally confident in each passing moment.
“Hi there, stranger,” I said as cheerily as I could. “What can I do you for? Drinking, eating, or both tonight?”
He turned those dark eyes towards me and I might as well have melted. I would have guessed he was maybe in his early twenties but I really had no idea. I only knew that he looked like a warrior god come to earth, and probably on the back of a vintage Harley to boot.
“Do you have steak?” he asked after a second of hesitation.
“Sure do. Ribeye? We can do it up with steak sauce and some fries.”
“I don’t want fries. Or the sauce. Just… the steak.”
Kind of a strange customer but I like a man who appreciates his protein, I figured.
“And how do you want that cooked?”
“Rare. Seared, actually.”
“Uh, I’m not sure we can do that. Health codes and all.”
He sighed and his beautiful eyes narrowed. “Then as rare as you can legally make it.”
“Sure thing. And to drink? On draft, we’ve got—“
“Do you have red wine?”
I paused. No one had ever ordered wine at the bar the entire time I’d been working there, as far as I knew. Folks liked their whiskeys, definitely: their bourbons, ryes, even Scotches.
They liked tequila, they liked rum, they loved beer, they even liked gin and vodka. But wine? I don’t think I’d ever even so much as cracked open a bottle of wine there. Even the ladies who came in would have a beer or a vodka and cranberry before they ordered wine.
But I knew for a fact we had a few dusty bottles sitting behind the bar, waiting for someone to finally order them.
“Um, sure we do. I can go check—“
“I don’t care what kind it is. Something dry. Very dry.”
“A glass or—“
“You can bring the bottle.”
The stranger clearly didn’t want to talk any longer and I didn’t need to scribble down his order—it was simple enough and weird enough that there was no way I’d forget it. I put in his order for steak and then took a look at the reds we had.
There were a series of neglected bottles, spider webs glistening on them in the dim neon lighting over the bar, the labels showing serene, sunny valleys and fields.
So much different from the reality of the folks who live around here.
That’s probably why they’re not much for wine drinking.
I picked one at random, something with a French-sounding name I couldn’t pronounce. I wiped a wine glass clean for the stranger. Usually, we just mixed up potent homebrewed cocktails in those glasses—daiquris and hurricanes and margaritas when we ran out of the right kind of glass.
The stranger barely acknowledged me when I brought his steak. As I turned to go, he reached out and grabbed my arm. God, but his grip was strong—it sent electric thrills up and down my spine and every muscle in my body tightened suddenly at his powerful touch.
In that moment, I wanted him to hold more than just my wrist. I wanted him to wrap his arms around my waist and hold me, just this tightly, all night long…
“Those men there. The biker types,” he said, softly, intently. “How long have they been here?”
“Them? Half an hour, maybe?”
“It’s only just them? You haven’t seen any more come in?”
“Nope, just them. None of them’s in the bathroom either. Something wrong? Do you know them?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong,” he said, a few times, and shot me a strained smile.
Even though I knew he was forcing it, I could have admired that smile forever. I could have drowned in that smile, and worshipped at the promise of another, more genuine smile playing out upon those lips.
“Well, okay then,” I said and drifted away from him.
The headliners in the UFC fights were just walking out when yet another newcomer entered the bar: a huge bear of a man.
He had a filthy, long beard and long hair, pulled back in a bandana that hung almost down to his shoulders. I could have sworn he had fangs, though obviously I couldn’t see them. He was dressed all in leather, all in chains, with a bulge at his waist which could only have been a pistol…
I didn’t like the look of this one bit. We kept a shotgun under the bar to deal with the occasional robbery but I’d never had to use it. The newcomer joined the other bikers who immediately greeted him with raucous cheers.
“Hey!” one of the bikers yelled, pointing at me. “Hey! Hey, ya’ little bitch! Get this man something to eat!”
My chest tightened as I walked over to him. I could feel his eyes looking me over, practically licking my body as he took me in.
“What’s your name, little girl?” he said with a low growl, his voice more like what I would have imagined an animal’s would have been. “What’s a little thing like you doing in a place like this? How old are you, fourteen? Fifteen?”
“My name is Tia,” I said hotly. “And I’m…” I paused. I always told patrons I was twenty-one, since I served alcohol. My boss knew I wasn’t and the regulars knew I wasn’t but any lawmen who came by had to only hear the lie. “Twenty-one.”
“Bullshit. You ain’t more than a year out of a middle-school, I bet you that. Get me a straight shot of whiskey and a steak. Rare as you can get it. There’s a nice fat tip in there for you if you just bring me a raw one.”
I froze. What was it with these weirdoes and wanting rare steak? I tried not to think about it. I tried to put it out of my mind as I put the order in and took care of other customers.
When I returned to the table, the big man seemed to be holding court with the other bikers, speaking in a low, dark voice.
Their faces were serious, troubled. Something was going on. Something had gone wrong, I could tell. I wasn’t about to interrupt them so I placed the steak and whiskey just next to the big man, trying to get away before I could catch any of their conspiratorial whispering.
My attempt at staying out of whatever was going on was in vain, however.
“Oh, she’s back for more, huh?” the big man yelled, grabbing me by the thigh and sinking his fingers into my dark skin. It hurt like hell and I yelled out, trying to wrench my leg away from him. He dragged me over to him, though, and forced me down onto his lap.
“What if I spread those great big ass cheeks of yours and rammed my big, fat old cock right into your pretty little asshole?”
“Get the fuck off me or I’m calling the police,” I hissed, more angry than afraid. The big man laughed.
“Do you have any idea who I am?” he growled. “The fucking cops won’t touch me.”
“I don’t know who you are and I don’t give a fuck,” I said and tried to stand up, his arm tight around my waist. The other bikers guffawed.
“Let’s take her outside and take turns fucking the shit out of her,” the one with the glass eye said with a laugh. I was terrified. I looked to the regulars sitting at the bar for help. Dan was already on his way over. Good old Dan.
“Fellas,” he began. “The little lady’s had enough. I don’t think this is your kind of place. Why don’t you all roll on out of here?”
Before any of them could reply, one of the bikers stood up and unceremoniously clubbed Dan over the head with his big fist. I screamed as the poor old man’s body crumpled to the ground, a thin trail of blood leaking from under his ever-present Saints cap.
“Who’d you say you were?” asked a voice from behind us. I turned and saw the young stranger standing up, his hand on the bottle of wine, which I noted was now empty. The steak was gone too. That boy could really put it away.
“I didn’t, and it ain’t none of your fucking business, pretty boy,” the big man said, sneering.
“I reckon it is, since I’m making it my business. What’s your name, boy?” the young stranger said.
The big man stood up suddenly, pushing me off his lap. I crawled away, thankful for the distraction.
“Did you call me ‘boy,’ boy?” he roared.
“I reckon I did. What’re you going to do about it?”