April Short Story Winner

The Ladies Man

Tom Nash

It was rare that his lazy eye came in handy, but this was one of those times. She definitely just looked over. If Richard wasn’t sure before, now he was; a beautiful woman was actually checking him out from the bar. Or maybe she wasn’t. Admittedly, it was a mistake that he had made many times in the past. And he was sat near the door, so it was reasonable to suppose that she was just looking past him, for a friend she was due to meet or something. It would be best to be absolutely certain before making a move, to ensure the encounter wasn’t uncomfortable and awkward. Richard was no stranger to those, especially with women.

His most recent awkward encounter with a woman had taken place on the high street a month or so before. He had just left the chemist, having restocked his supply of athlete’s foot cream and was on his way to the bus stop. He made eye contact with a woman coming from the opposite direction. She smiled. He smiled back. Then for some reason she waved, so he waved back. He didn’t recognise her but he reasoned that she must know him from somewhere, and she was very pretty. As they drew level, he stopped. She didn’t. He greeted her. She walked by. He turned. She embraced a man behind him and hooked a thumb in his direction. They both laughed. He felt his face flush red and hurried off, conscious not to catch eyes with anyone else. He shook his head and took a large swig of his drink.

The next time the door behind him opened Richard resolved to carefully shoot a glance toward the bar. He didn’t want to risk making a fool of himself again. He would only go over if he was one hundred percent certain she was interested. The door creaked open. She didn’t look over. She’s not waiting for someone then. Richard smiled. Time to think of an opening gambit.

Would it be suitable to send a drink over? He shook his head. That sort of thing only works in stories. He thought of chat up lines, of rearranging the alphabet, mirrors in pockets and eyes likes spanners. They were funny but this lady looked classy, he needed something sophisticated for this one. He knew that stamping on an ice cube wouldn’t work, last time he tried that it shot across the room and almost blinded this poor girl. It did start a conversation however, between Richard and the girl’s boyfriend. It mainly centred on reasons the bloke shouldn’t ‘knock him the fuck out’. It was a short conversation; Richard couldn’t think of any.

He unconsciously ran a finger over the lump his nose acquired that night. Maybe a line that doesn’t require props would be safest. Barry from work told him a good one once, something about getting their number before waking up. Slick. The only thing was, it could only be used once a conversation had already been initiated. That wouldn’t do. Maybe sending a drink over could work after all. He looked over. Other than the woman, the bar was empty. He’d have to wait for more people to go up first; it’d be weird sending a drink across an empty bar as an icebreaker, the last thing he needed was for her to think he was a creep. She looked over. Richard averted his eyes.

He rubbed his bald spot for a moment and brushed a few hairs around in a half-hearted effort to cover it before chancing another glance over to the bar. She had a fresh glass of wine in her hand. There would be no drink sending then. But at least it bought him a few minutes to get his confidence up. He gulped down the rest of his pint and gave himself a quick once-over. The ketchup stain on his shirt was barely noticeable now but he scratched at it anyway, chipping away a few more dried flakes to reveal a dark grease mark beneath. He dabbed at it with a wet finger. It only made the dark patch bigger. He’d do up the buttons of his jacket before he went over, just in case.

He glanced at the window and licked his lips. It felt like his cold sore was nearly gone now and he couldn’t see it in his dull reflection. Maybe he could pick away the last of the scab in the toilets. He looked over to the bar again. She was finishing her glass. No time for the toilet now, if he was going to make a move, it would have to be now.  

Richard wiped his mouth with his tie, picked up his glass and sauntered over to the bar, nice and casual-like. He positioned himself next to the woman. It’s now or never. He placed an elbow on the bar and glanced over with all the nonchalance he could muster. She was looking him up and down. That’s a good sign, surely? All right, the last time a lady had looked at him like that it turned out she was canvassing for some charity. He ended up signing up to pay them twenty pounds a month and didn’t even get her phone number. This was a completely different scenario though and Richard was feeling lucky.

The woman was still checking him out. A slight smile had spread across her lips. Their eyes met. He smiled. Now he just had to ask if she wanted another drink. She looked down and laughed before he could. He looked down. Brilliant. A corner of his shirt was poking out of his open fly.