“Well, as fate would have it, the following week both young lass’s were working the tavern. Millie being my usual found it odd to see Kiki muscling in on her territory. You all know how women can be. I won’t mention the words exchanged, in honor of such fine ladies and for the delicacy of you good folks here tonight. A great amount of hair pulling and finger clawing like two cats in heat commenced. I must admit it brought more than a few men to attention.”
“Hank broke up the fight, ordering both girls to pack up their belongings and leave. I felt the punishment much too harsh and being the cause of the skirmish I took it upon myself to handle the situation in a gentlemanly manner. Now, what I will say is the suggestion was mine and I could have been well in my cups already. I’d recently come from a friend’s house in which I’d partaken of a splash or two of his fine rum. But yes, truth be told, I offered the suggestion, as the legend goes.”
He paused, took another healthy sip from his mug, letting the audience, including her, wait with baited breath for him to continue. Would he go into detail of their night? Millie sensed a ghostly flush rising over her spirit. Could the one night be the reason for her still being here, the true cause she’d not been invited to Heaven?
Her father had always scolded her for her loose morals and if she didn’t repent she’d go straight to Hell. She’d never regretted the night, so she never repented. Well, she’s still here in Kings Mill—not quite Heaven or Hell but somewhere in between. What would the people think of her if they knew the truth? Did this man really know or would she be shamed by a deception?
James Addison wiped his lips again on his sleeve. “You are still asking yourself if the two women agreed to my request…ah well, that my dear friends is for Millie and Kiki to tell, if they so choose.”
Millie wasn’t sure if the guests were disappointed he didn’t reveal all the details. But she had to admit, she was relieved. She’d enjoyed the moment immensely but it would remain private and personal, even after all these years.
“I would like to make a toast…’To Millie and Kiki, may they be at peace in their eternal rest. God Bless ‘em.” He drank the rest of his ale and slammed the mug down on the bar behind him in joviality. “Now enjoy your evening and remember to tip your hard-working servers, fairly.” With that he thanked them and gave a dashing bow, securing his tricorne back on his handsome head. It amazed her how much the man looked like her James.
A boisterous round of cheers followed from the guests and servers alike and Millie felt a tear of happiness escape and watched in awe as it plopped down onto the young woman’s auburn head below her. Biting her lip she waited as the woman tilted her head up to study the rafters. A comely lass with stormy green eyes and hair weaved into a braid over her shoulders. But her facial muscles tightened as if wanting to start a fight. Millie knew the look intimately. She’d witnessed it the night she fought Kiki.
The guests returned to eating and talking among themselves. The man portraying her James Addison manuvered out of their line of vision and made his way towards the woman, pulling her to his side in the shadowed servers entry. Millie floated above, hovering in the background. She watched as the man stroked the woman’s cheek and kiss her like a tender lover.
No. This couldn’t be the same James Addison. James was never one to linger publicly with such a display of affection. He’d been a behind the door kind of lover. The woman pulled him close, removed his hat and whispered something in his ear. Millie missed the moment to find out what the lass said. In a split second she’d wrapped her muffler around her neck, placed her cap on her head, and stormed out the side exit of the tavern, leaving him holding his tricorne and looking forlorn. The words must have been heated for the door to slam so on its hinges.
Millie floated down to earth and stood just behind the man, feeling the need to say or do something. He appeared troubled and yet eager. Like a man torn. But he’d been wonderful tonight and she wanted to somehow tell him how much his story meant to her. He toyed with his hat, looking around the tavern as if searching for something.
“Millie…I can feel you in this place. I look around and I think I sense you in every corner of the room,” the man whispered as he stood alone in the narrow doorway between the back kitchen and the outside server’s entry. “I always thought of you as I’d pass by in the two hundred thirty-eight years of hellish limbo, but I never saw you. If you are here I wish for you to find the happiness I’ve found of late with April. It’s funny how ironic death would lead me to the right woman. Fate brought her to me. I hope fate is as good to you, my old friend.”
Stepping forward she gasped realizing this might be James. Could it be? Was he really here, in the flesh? She placed her hand on his shoulder but she couldn’t make solid contact. He did turn around but his eyes closed as he breathed in the musty tavern air.
“Rose water. I can almost smell your scent.” He opened his eyes and she could see the tight movement of his Adam’s apple bobbing; a sheen of moisture crossing those dark, midnight lover’s eyes. “Kiss me good-bye, Millie. I’ve been blessed with a second chance. And if there is a merciful God in heaven…one I don’t want to give up.”
“Thank you, James, for everything back then and for tonight,” she said, not knowing if he heard her or not but saying it all the same. She bused a kiss on his mouth, not touching in the physical sense. Feeling lighter, Millie delighted in knowing he was okay after all these years.
A slight smile played across his lips when she stood back. He wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve. Had he been removing a tear? She couldn’t tell. Clearing his throat with a husky cough, he slammed his tricorne back onto his head and hurried out the door in which his young woman, had exited through, only moments earlier.
Millie watched him leave with a mixture of contentment and loss. James had never been hers, not really; even back in the day. Sighing, she floated back into the dining area to check on her young lovers. Thomas and Charity were still working together, bumping elbows and hands as they cleared their large party’s table after they had left. The subtle laughs and Charity, biting her lip at something Thomas said to her had Millie eager to see what these two potential love birds were up to. It would cheer her heart even more if they paired.
“…I can’t, I’m dating someone,” Charity whispered.
“Oh.” Thomas’s nervous fingers knocked over a glass with a small amount of liquid in it and they scrambled to take care of the mess.
“I’m sorry.” Charity looked up at him but his eyes didn’t meet hers. “I really am.”
Thomas shrugged her off with feigned indifference and took the tote of dirty dishes to the kitchen as if nothing else mattered. Charity sighed.
“Silly girl, you would let a fine man slip right through your fingers?” Millie stood next to the girl’s shoulder.
“I wish I’d met him sooner,” Charity mumbled to herself as if angry with the choices she’d made.
Millie jerked her head back. Were those Charity’s thoughts or had she involuntarily coerced her into thinking those things? She would have to keep an eye on her tonight.
The rest of the evening turned uneventful. Just the same regular customers, after the hubbub of James Addison died down, coming in for their nightly brew. The bar prepared to close when a last group of clientele arrived and sat down at a large table.
Didn’t they know it was last call? Millie thought she knew of the one burly muscled, man. When Charity came out to take their orders, she realized who he was. He grabbed Charity by the hip and forced her closer to his side, burying his face in her voluptuous, corseted breasts.
So some things didn’t change much. But this was the guy she dated, if Millie remembered correctly. Dear God, the girl’s daft to be paired to the cad! If it were her, she’d drop this beastly idiot for Thomas in less than a sober thought.
“Mark, please—not here.” Charity tried to move away from him.“You’ve been drinking.” She waved her hand to ward off his smell.
“Yeah, so? You my mother now?” He pinched her bottom. “I’m claiming you so no one gets any ideas.”
“I am not your property!” Charity threw out her hip and leaned on it.
Huzzah girl! Stand up for yourself.
The other guys made disgusting comments telling him to ‘show her who was boss’, ‘who wore the pants in the relationship’ and ‘how he needed to keep her in line, if he were a real man’.
What a disgraceful group of arses! Millie glared through narrowed eyes as Charity took their orders and dealt with the gropes and pinches Mark allowed his friends to get away with. She walked away in a huff, retreating to the kitchen as they threw random changes to their food orders.