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Over Twenty Percent
Title: Over Twenty Percent
Genre: Fiction
Word Count: 398
Notes: Notes, including introspective philosophical rambling and an alternate version of the story, are here.

Kharis 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 Mason 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, Sacramento?" she says, lips at my ear, leaving everything to the imagination.

I didn't ask for this attention, but I'm a regular. I tip somewhere between good and exorbitant. Objectively, I suppose, it's tragic. Even if there was a chance for friendship or love between us, the money changing hands forever mars it. I can't guess Kharis' motives in flirting. I don't even know that she has a motive, outside of hooka lounge custom or waitress survival technique. And the money that's the basis of our fling is running out. I burn my trust fund at both ends; it will not last the night.

I turn to look at her. She is beautiful. No, that's wrong, she is not beautiful, Little about her good looks are conventional, but she exudes glamour, and mixed with her almost sentimental sensuality, I am wholly intoxicated. This amazing woman, whom I mean so little to, is for our brief exchanges, wholly attention on me.

"I think some of the others need more hot water," I say. Our moment is fleeting. I'm buying her affections. I will run out of money. I can't afford this.

Yeah, like I care.

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After checking out both version, I definitely understand why you picked this one. The brevity adds to the emotion charging the scene, while the added background in the alternate seems to distill it. In this submission, there is no Jane or Ed, and Ben is only mentioned to give a point of reference for where Kharis leans. Despite the impression of the crowded lounge, the reader is aware that for all intents and purposes, it is just Sacremento and Kharis and the money that lies between them. Very powerful!

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