|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Tries To Help Her Sister, Part 3|
Rowena winced as her sister led her into the bar. “Maralynne, really,” she said. The inside looked even seedier than the outside.
“It's not bad,” Maralynne said. “I used to come here before I got involved with You-Know-Who.” She slinked her way over to the bar and Rowena followed dubiously, steering clear of a couple of patrons who looked as if they might topple.
“You're expecting me to fail. You don't think I'll meet anybody,” Maralynne said. She gave Rowena a pitying look, posed herself suggestively on a barstool and ordered. “You think,” she continued, “that I'll never find a boyfriend again.”
“I don't think any such thing,” Rowena said. She took a napkin and wiped her own stool off—just in case—before she sat down. “I'm sure you can do better than Brian.”
Maralynne grabbed her arm. “Did you see that?” she whispered.
Maralynne pointed at the glass in front of her, and at the bartender closing the cash register. “He didn't card me.”
“I've never been not-carded before. I must look old. Do I look old?”
“You do not look old. You—”
“He can tell I'm 21.”
“Oh, for God's sake.”
“Rowena, for an actress—”
“Excuse me,” said a man behind Rowena's shoulder. “Could I buy you a drink?”
“No, thanks,” Rowena said. “Maralynne, the whole—”
“See how easy it is?” Maralynne asked. “If you can get one, I could get dozens.” She raised her glass.
Sometimes her sister's back-trackings and changes of subject made Rowena dizzy. “Good,” she said. She placed her own order; the bartender brought it to her without comment.
“So, what were your ideas, anyway?” Maralynne asked. “Not that it matters.”
“Well, you could find a better place than a bar to hang around, or at least a nicer bar than this one. Or, better, you could take a class at the community college, maybe computers or something, if—”
“A class?” demanded Maralynne. “Computers?”
“Well, it wouldn't have to be computers. I just thought, the number of guys—”
“Number of nerds, you mean,” Maralynne said. She took a gulp. “Anyway, I'd flunk.”
“That never seemed to bother you much in high school. Or your legions of boyfriends, either.”
“Now you're making fun of me. I didn't—”
“I am not making fun of you. I'm just pointing out that you were popular despite not doing all that well gradewise.”
“Well, I don't want to take any more classes.”
“Then don't. I just—”
“Nerds,” Maralynne scoffed. Rowena stuck her elbow on the bar and rested her head on her palm.
“You kind of have to ask yourself about the guys here and what they come here for,” she said. “Do they come looking for relationships or just somebody to pick up?” She pushed her glass with her finger. “Look around,” she said. “I would guess they want somebody to pick up. Which means this is really not the place for your particular—”
“Once a guy picks me up,” Maralynne said, “he's not going to put me down.” She giggled. Rowena raised her head and stared. “Don't worry,” Maralynne said. “If you have to take a cab I'll pay you back. I'm considerate.”
“Maralynne,” Rowena said, “do you mean to tell me you think you can just waltz off with the first guy who walks in the door—the door to a place like this—and go live happily ever after? Just like that?”
“Don't be silly. You talk to him a while, find out what his sign is—”
“You gotta start with a date, right? And then . . .” Maralynne made a vague gesture with her hand. “They only think they want a one-night stand,” she said. “But that's 'cause they haven't met me yet.”
Rowena put her head back down. She could hear her sister's glass leave the bar, then clink back onto it again. She hoped she hadn't quite understood what her sister really meant.
“Hiya, Red. Buy you a drink?”
“How 'bout you, Blondie?”
“Like I'm gonna take her leavings!” Maralynne cried. The man retreated. “Like I'm—Oh!”
“Maralynne, the place is full of jerks. Let's go.”
“What'd he ask you for, anyway?”
“How should I know?” Rowena asked. “Maybe he's strange or something. Or maybe you're being just a little too loud.”
“I'm not loud; I'm vivacious.” She raised her glass and drank. “Vivacious,” she repeated.
“I'm not going,” Maralynne said. “You're always pushing me around.”
“Maralynne, you're too upset. Nothing good—”
“Watch this,” Maralynne said. “Bartender!” She gave him a big smile and thrust her implants out at him. “Doing anything after work?”
“No free drinks, lady,” the bartender said. “Ain't nobody gets a free drink here.” And he turned his back.
Maralynne stared at him with her mouth open. Rowena tried to think of something to say that would prevent a disaster, but she was interrupted.
“May I buy you ladies a drink?” asked somebody—somebody next to Maralynne. At least this one is polite enough to include both of us, Rowena thought, as she turned to see him. He was regarding Maralynne quizzically.
“I've seen you before,” he said. “I know I have.”
Maralynne stared. “Mr. Felcher!” she said. “What—what nerve!”
“You flunked me in tenth-grade Social Studies. And now you're here . . .”
Mr. Felcher ran his hand through his hair. He was about sixty, and Rowena—who had no trouble picturing him in a classroom, giving out easy A's—found herself wondering whether Maralynne would be quite so indignant if he were younger.
“Marilyn, was it?” he asked. “You had a very poor attendance record.”
“You flunked me!”
“Maralynne, you did graduate,” Rowena said. “Anyway, I'm sure—”
“He flunked me! And now he's going to stand here—”
“I'm sorry,” Mr. Felcher said. “I just thought you looked like an attractive young lady. I didn't mean to be insulting.” And he left.
“Maralynne,” said Rowena. “Let's go.”
“Right,” said Maralynne. “Just when I'm starting to get somewhere.”
“Get somewhere? Get where? Maralynne—”
“I just got here,” Maralynne complained. “Have another drink.”
“I'm not done with the first one.”
“Then finish it.” Rowena heard her glass sliding towards her. She sighed.
“I'm just too generous,” Maralynne said, several drinks later. Rowena was still on her first. “We Pisces women never think of ourselves. Everybody wants to take advantage of us.”
“Maralynne, for the thousandth time—”
“You wouldn't understand that,” Maralynne said. “You wouldn't know what—”
“Will you stop it already? Listen, it isn't that you're too nice or whatever. The problem—”
“See? I knew you wouldn't understand.”
“The problem is you keep running around in a state of desperation and when you do get taken advantage of you won't admit it. You go around insisting that—”
“You just wait'll your relationship blows up. You wait and see. You Leos are too self-absorbed for—”
“And anything that goes wrong you blame on Astrology. Brian was a disaster from the word go, and now you're doing your best to find another guy exactly like him. If—”
“You want me to sit in a cave? You want me to dress like a nun? You want me to be ugly?” The horror in her voice when she said this last word was impressive. “You think—”
“Maralynne, I came out here with you, I am watching you get drunk, and I am getting a headache, all on your account. Will you please do me the favor of listening to me for once? Just hear me out, okay?”
“I'm not getting drunk.”
“Maralynne. Let's go. We can go back to my place and have some coffee. I baked—”
“I am not leaving here a failure,” Maralynne said. Rowena sighed.
“Look. Stay right here and keep out of trouble, okay? I'm going to the Ladies' Room. Be back in a few minutes.” She patted her sister's arm and left. As she went she dug the aspirin from her purse and started to plan what she'd say on her return. When she looked back, Maralynne was slumped over, staring at her drink.
Rowena had to dodge two amorous drunks on her way to the Ladies' Room, and a puddle of vomit on her way back. She had not managed to think up an argument she thought would really convince Maralynne, though she still intended to try. But Maralynne was gone. Rowena stood and stared. Then she went to the bartender. “Excuse me—”
The bartender looked at her, then gestured with one hand toward the corner, where there seemed to be some kind of commotion. Rowena went there and found her sister and a strange man under the table.
“Maralynne,” she said in a level voice, “button your blouse and get up, please.”
“Go away!” Maralynne cried. “Who invited you?”
“You did,” Rowena reminded her. “Maralynne, you're drunk. You've lost your mind. Get up.”
“Go away,” said Maralynne again. “I'm doing better without you.”
Rowena crawled under the table after her. The things I do, she thought. “Maralynne, let's go. Right now.” Maralynne shoved at her and she almost went over backwards. She picked herself up. “Maralynne, listen to me.”
“Leave her alone,” the stranger said. He tried to push Rowena back, but she was braced this time.
“Hey!” yelled Maralynne. “Quit shoving my sister!” She took a swing at the man, and Rowena grabbed her and pulled her back. Somehow she ended up at the edge of the table, out of the fray and facing the rest of the bar and—Brian.
Rowena stared at her sister's ex-boyfriend. She stood up.
“So,” she said, just loudly enough. “Brian.” The scuffling under the table ceased. “Does, ah, does Betsy know you're here?”
Brian shook his head dumbly. Maralynne, with one middle button fastened, though not correctly, scrambled more or less upright beside Rowena.
“This place sucks,” Maralynne said, looking at Brian. “Especially the so-called people here. Let's go.”
The sisters left without another word. Rowena made no reference to Maralynne's dishevelled state; it was dark, and what was a button or two? But they'd come in Maralynne's car, and the thought of Maralynne behind the wheel . . .
“You know,” Rowena said, “you have the neatest car. I've always wanted to drive it.”
And drive she did.
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