I'd originally intended it as a throwaway paragraph to run as a JFF, but it sort of became the entry due to both other considerations, and further explorations of the piece. I don't want to say that I'm not happy with it, but I think that's the fact I can't actually decide myself about how I feel about the protagonist, and the protagonist's beliefs. I suppose I disagree with them as much as I envy them, but in trying such a short piece, it's hard to get all of that through.
Alternate version follows that's a bit longer, but weaker for it (I think). I'm trying to actively avoid stories where not much happens, which is how it's sort of part of a longer and more complex scene in my mind that I don't think it's necessarily worth the effort to write out - I doubt it's actually interesting that way. I'd be curious to hear any comments on comparing the two.
Heather brings our drinks. She distributes them to the party while leaning over the table directly across from me, giving me a long shot of her cleavage. I take a long look, long enough to ensure that she sees me looking, but short enough to still have time to look her in those dark, dark eyes. I need to show that I know that she knows I looked, as needlessly complicated as it sounds. She finishes distributing all of the glasses but mine, then takes mine around the table. Over my left shoulder, (she knows I'm old fashioned), she slips in between Ben and I, placing the drink in front of me on the table. When she puts the drink down, she rests her arm on the table, next to my arm. She stops for a moment. Her hand is not touching mine and neither is her arm. Instead, the whole of her body is resting just a second away from mine, incredibly close to but not actually touching it at any point. The merest of jostles should change that – and in this crowded bar there are a lot of jostles – but she remains at a fixed point.
"Can I get you anything else, Smith?" she says, lips at my ear, leaving everything to the imagination. I incline my head slightly towards hers, then stop, to look about the table. Everyone looks so happy. Even newly-sober Ash is animated and chattering away. Everyone looks so alive. Ed and his gang are cheering on the belly dancer with terrific cries and throaty whoops. There's food, drink, and shisha.
I feel Jane's nails on my right arm, trying to distract me. Jane's getting jealous of Heather. No, Jane's always jealous of Heather, because Jane hates any woman who isn't stick-thin but still looks gorgeous, as Heather does. Jane slips her other hand to the back of my neck, where she begins to scratch gently.
"Anything at all?" asks Heather, breaking me from my reverie. Heather has issues with class like Jane has issues with fat, so the two love to compete. I am perfectly aware of all of this, and love to let them compete. I don't feel guilty about it, not in the least. I don't feel guilty because I know that my money is the only reason why they're with me. Some day, when the tips get less generous and the nights to exclusive restaurants stop, neither Heather nor Jane will have anything to do with me.
It's true of everyone at the table. All of them are here because it's my bill. That's more true for some than others, but all of them are tied into this lifestyle I'm supporting, which is a lifestyle that I cannot support for long. Two, maybe four, years from now, I'll run out of settlement money to burn through, the party will be over, and I'll be alone. But that's years from now. At the moment, I'm having a ridiculously good time in an amazing club, I'm spreading the cheer far and wide, and, most important of all, I have a pair of angels directly competing for my attention.
They say a fool and his money are soon parted.
I don't care.
- Notes: Over Twenty Percent