Foamy beer sloshed from a dozen tiny plastic cups onto Alanna’s lap.
“Shhhit!” She leapt off the barstool, glaring at the redhead who had spilled the tray of drinks. The cold liquid now resembled a kindergarten accident on her jeans. I hate Thursday nights at Cowboys.
Country music blared over the lower thrum of a hundred people talking, yelling, and stomping on the dance floor. Posters on the barrels and walls advertised “Wet T-shirt Contest Fridays”, “Live Music Saturdays”, and “Male Stripper Wednesdays”. The crowd was mostly made up of university students and young professionals playing at being cowboys and cowgirls. Half of them were doing something closer to a polka than a two-step, and if even one of them could ride a horse, Alanna would eat her Shady Brady straw hat.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” The redhead grabbed a wad of napkins and tried to dab Alanna’s crotch, but the beer was also all over the floor and she slipped and slammed her head right between Alanna’s thighs.
Alanna saw stars and collapsed to her knees. Both women ended up on the sticky wet floor. The redhead rubbed her forehead with one hand and sheepishly held out her other hand with the napkins. Alanna snatched them up and stood in a single swift movement.
Ladies’ night is a sausage fest, Alanna thought. The men outnumbered the woman three to one. Her classmate, Shannon, had dragged her here for the cheap draft but ditched her the moment a brawny, ginger-bearded lumberjack asked her to dance. The redhead was the lumberjack’s platonic plus one. A cousin? A sister? They definitely weren’t a couple. They clearly belonged to the same Celtic family tree with that flaming red hair.
Shannon and the lumberjack disappeared into the sweaty throng two-stepping in a corralled dance floor, leaving Alanna and the redhead to guard their oak barrel table and bar stools.
The women had been introduced, but Alanna hadn’t caught the redhead’s name. And she hadn’t cared to ask. The girl looked too young to be in a bar, but the bouncers checked IDs, so she had to be legal. In contrast to her striking auburn hair, the woman had a diminutive, almost mousy demeanour. The redhead offered to buy another tray.
Alanna shook her head. “Nah, I’ll get this one.” Her pubic area still throbbed from the impact of the girl’s forehead, but she couldn’t stop staring at her eyes. They were as blue as the neon Budweiser sign above the bar. She revised her earlier decision not to engage.
“What’s yer name again?”
“Maddie, I’ll be right back.” She mimed drinking a beer and pointed to the bar.
If they couldn’t have a conversation, at least they could get drunk.
Alanna pushed her way through the plaid and raffia cowboy hats. It was like wading through a sea of cleavage and body glitter. She choked on the haze of Axe body spray.
Debating if Maddie was short for Madison or Madeline, Alanna decided she was cute, even if she was a bit of a klutz. She liked freckles on a woman.
The line at the bar was long and chaotic. Every tank top double-D seemed to bump her way in front of Alanna, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time. A bored beer tub girl, set up next to the bar and serving no one because bottles were full price, let Alanna in on a secret. Two padded push-up bras plus make-up contouring magicked her A-cups into Cs.
Ten minutes later, Alanna returned triumphant with another tray of beer and something to gossip about.
“Maddie!” she yelled. “Guess what I learned at the bar!”
It took the entire tray of beer and repeating herself six times, but the two women were roaring with laughter by the time Shannon and the lumberjack returned with more drinks. The conversation shifted to male strippers, with Shannon telling the story of how Alanna was sure the star of the strip show pulled a similar optical illusion with a different part of his anatomy.
“That was a sock.” Alanna pantomimed the size with her hands spread a foot wide.
“No, it wasn’t!” Shannon slammed her palm flat on the barrel, almost upending another tray of draft.
The lumberjack, whose name was Paul, gave Maddie a look and raised an eyebrow. She whispered something back with her hands cupped around his ear and winked at Alanna.
“I have to pee,” Maddie yelled at Alanna. “Wanna come?”
They chugged more twenty-five cent draft, then left the lust birds — Paul and Shannon were already making out — to guard the table while they went to the washroom.
The hallway was painted black. Wall niches housed electric candles that illuminated the path in a flickering light. The women stood in line side-by-side, the backs of their hands brushing against one another to the sound of toilets flushing.
“Ya know, you’re really pretty,” Maddie said.
Alanna started to reply, “You’re…” when Maddie bolted for the washroom door. They made it to a stall just as Maddie started dry heaving. Alanna held her hair back with one hand and rubbed her back with the other.
Maddie peeked up at Alanna. “Can I have your number?”
“Maddie, we really need to work on your timing.”
“It’s Maggie,” she said wryly and turned back to the porcelain bowl to puke up the remaining draft in her stomach.
“And that…” Paul paused, raising his champagne flute to his sister and sister-in-law, “is how Maddie — I mean Maggie! — and Alanna met.”
The wedding guests laughed. Maggie blushed. Alanna snorted her champagne up through her nose. The two women gazed at each other, their faces bathed in candlelight from the dozens of tealight mason jars adorning the tables, clinked glasses, and kissed.
T.L. Tomljanovic is a freelance writer based in British Columbia, Canada. Her work has been published in university alumni magazines, children’s non-fiction book series, and literary publications. She lives with her partner, two young children, and their 170lb English Mastiff dog.