“Do you really think this is a good idea?” Leigh asks Jim as she applies eyeliner, perfectly.
“Do I think what is a good idea?” Jim asks. He’s playing a game with their cat Perry. It’s pretty complex for a cat game. Jim presents Perry with a choice of straws—yellow, red, and blue; Perry picks one via his paw or his nose; Jim then constructs a pokey thing made of the three straws; the straw Perry picked is in front, and is therefore what he gets poked with. Perry and Jim both enjoy this game.
“Having Chris and Pete come to Stenny’s.”
“Sure, why not?” Jim says as Perry pounces on the straws.
“They’re your work colleagues. You’ve never seen them socially. You don’t know how they’ll mix with everyone. It could be awkward.”
“I’m sure it will be fine, Leigh,” Jim says. “Don’t overthink it.”
“Better to overthink than to underthink,” Leigh says. “But it’s up to you. No skin off my nose. But don’t expect me to act any differently.”
Twenty minutes later, they are settled in their bar stools, near Matt and Joanna. Leigh is deep into her signature drink, the Leightini. Jim followed Matt’s lead and ordered a Beefeater’s straight up, no vermouth. He ordered out of earshot of Leigh, and says to Matt, “Don’t tell her it’s gin. She doesn’t like me to drink gin.”
“Why not?” Matt asks.
“She doesn’t like how you act when you drink gin.”
“I drink gin all the time,” Matt says.
“When you drink too much gin, then,” Jim says. “Could also have something to do with how I act when I drink gin.”
“Come to think if it, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you drink gin,” Matt says. “How do you act?”
“Depends on a bunch of metabolic factors. I’m never quite sure at the outset. Just don’t let me have more than two, OK?”
“I’m not going to track your drinking. Joanna will, though. Want me to tell her?”
“No, she’ll tell Leigh,” Jim says.
“True. You’re on your own, unless one of your work friends is willing to be on gin patrol.” Jim had told Matt about Chris and Pete’s imminent arrival.
“Speak of the devils. Here they come now,” Jim says.
Chris is Jim’s boss, a regional sales manager for the pharma company they both work for; this no doubt contributed to Leigh’s earlier anxiety. He looks like a boss, in that almost indefinable way some bosses do; he has an air about him that communicates he’s accustomed to being in charge. Pete is a sales rep like Jim; they both “carry a bag,” in pharma-speak. Jim is a bit of a mentor to Pete, who is about 20 years his junior.
Jim introduces them to Matt after the usual small talk of Glad you could make it; Did you have any trouble finding it?; Here Chris, take my seat; The first round is on me.
“This is my good friend Matlock,” Jim says. “He’s a peach of a guy.” This is odd phrasing for Jim, and Matt fleetingly wonders if he’s nervous. “Matlock, this is my boss Chris and my colleague Pete.”
“I go by Matt,” Matt says. “For obvious reasons. Good to meet you both.”
“I’m not your boss tonight, Jim,” Chris says, authoritatively. “I’d like to meet your wife. Is she here?”
“Yes, she’s right over there, the sleek looking brunette.” More odd phrasing from Jim, but Matt is now halfway through his Beefeater’s and doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care.
“Bring her over,” Chris says.
Jim makes a sound that, if written, would be “Ch Ch.” Matt knows it’s Jim’s way of getting Leigh’s attention in noisy places; the sound cuts through practically everything. That being the case, it must be intentional that Leigh, only four stools away, does not turn towards Jim; she continues her conversation with Joanna.
“Ch Ch,” Jim says again, and takes a very large sip of his Beefeater’s.
Matt sees Joanna nudge Leigh and Leigh finally turns around. Jim sees, too late, that Leigh has started on her second Leightini.
“What the fuck, Jimmy? You know I hate it when you call me like that. Makes me feel like a dog.”
There are a few reasons why it’s not optimal for Leigh to have uttered these three short sentences: 1) Jim goes by James at work; he knew people would refer to him tonight as Jim, but he wasn’t expecting Jimmy, especially from his own wife; 2) It’s best practice for “fuck” not to be the 3rd word your wife ever says in front of your boss; 3) Leigh made Jim sound like an insensitive jerk.
“I’m sorry, Leigh. I was just anxious for you to meet Chris and Pete.”
Completely in keeping with her command of the English language and her rapid alcohol intake, Leigh says, “You’re eager, not anxious. Unless you’re worried I’m going to embarrass you.”
Matt sees Joanna pinch Leigh’s upper arm; the message is clear: What are you doing and whatever it is, stop.
The pinch seems to work; a look of contrition flies across Leigh’s face as she dismounts and walks over to the foursome; she quickly regroups.
“I was just kidding around,” she says to Chris and Pete. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Or you either, James,” she says, and kisses his cheek. “Forgive me, I drank that first Leightini too quickly. It’s very nice to meet you.”
Jim palpably relaxes, Pete says, “No worries, nice to meet you too,” and Chris says, “What’s a Leightini?”
“It’s my version of an appletini. Made with rum instead of vodka.”
“That sounds good,” Chris says. “I’m going to try one.”
“That’s fine, but I’m the only one who is allowed to order it that way. You have to call it a rumpletini.”
Jim palpably un-relaxes, until Chris and Leigh both laugh. “She’s delightful,” Chris says to Jim. “Well done.” It’s the same thing Chris says when he’s pleased with Jim’s work, and Jim now feels an acute sense of time/space displacement, exacerbated by the gin.
Much later, as they head home, Jim says, “Rocky start, but it worked out. I know they both had fun.”
Leigh is quite drunk; her four Leightinis were followed by three shots of tequila. She is still brunette, but no longer sleek.
“I’m not going to apologize,” she says. “I told you it was a bad idea to mix worlds.”
Due to Leigh’s drunkenness, Jim is driving; a rare happening. He begins to reply, but sees his wife is sound asleep; it’s a good thing, because what he was going to say is “I don’t like you very much when I drink gin,” which would have just pissed her off.
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