Leigh, with her Master’s in Fine Arts, her job as an editor at an independent publisher, and her clutter of cats, is kind and sensitive, much (much) more so than Joanna, and can tell instantly if something is wrong with someone she cares about.
“Stephen is upset,” she had once said to Joanna.
“Oh yeah? How do you know?”
“His left eyebrow is cocked awkwardly.”
Joanna looked at Stephen, who was at that moment pouring an Amstel for Bullshit Billy.
“Oh my God, yes!” Joanna said. “Should we do an intervention?”
“Don’t be snarky,” Leigh said. “I will be proven right.”
And she was; Stephen later told them he was worried about his father, who had tripped and fallen earlier in the day.
So it’s odd that Leigh is now, on this Sunday afternoon, showing a blazing insensitivity—rudeness actually—to the person who has just sat down on the next bar stool. It’s a woman named Kristin; she’s part of the Solaris crowd.
“Hi, you’re Leigh, right?” Kristin says.
“Yes,” Leigh replies, taking a sip of what she calls a Leightini, a variation of an Appletini.
“I’m Kristin. I’m with the Solaris people. You probably hate us for crashing your bar.”
“I wouldn’t say hate. But why did you start coming here?”
The abruptness of this question captures the attention of Jim, Leigh’s husband, but he says nothing.
“Oh, just a change of pace. And our favorite bartender got fired.”
“You know him?” Kristin asks.
Jim jumps in. “Hi, I’m Jim. Leigh’s husband. We used to drink at Solaris pretty regularly. Patrick would take good care of us.”
Kristin laughs. “Us too. Our bill would be ridiculously small. Could be one reason he got fired.”
“Yep,” Jim says. “Small bill, big tip.”
Kristin tries again with Leigh. “Did I hear you’re an editor? I’ve always wanted to write a book.”
“I am, but I have no clout, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Kristin’s pleasant smile freezes on her face. Jim, who caters to Leigh except when he doesn’t, has heard enough.
“Leigh,” he says. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Kristin, I’m so sorry my wife is being such a bitch.”
Usually when Jim talks to Leigh this way, she will say something like Go fuck yourself, you cocksucker. But now she looks at him steadily with her Princess Caroline eyes and says, “Just hush, please,” something Jim can’t recall her ever before saying.
The next few seconds are awkward, with Kristin’s frozen face, Jim’s embarrassment, and Leigh’s silence. Fortunately for all, a big burly guy yells “Hey Kristin, come here a second” from the other end of the bar. He’s another member of the Solaris gang, one Jim thinks of as a ringleader.
“Excuse me,” Kristin says, and leaves.
“Leigh, really,” Jim says. “What was that all about? I have never seen you act like that. She was being nice, and you were so fucking rude.”
“I can’t talk about it now. Maybe later. Not today.”
Jim knows his wife well enough to let it go, but her oddness is pissing him off, and he says, “I’m going to talk to Stan for a few minutes, I’ll be back.”
Leigh says okay as she fiddles with a drink straw, clearly deep in thought.