Elixir

Ilse Lund shifted her weight on the barstool and glanced up at the mirror over the back of the bar.  In its reflection she could see the bar’s bustling activity–licit, illicit, and somewhere in between, depending on whose laws you considered right–and she scanned the room, hoping she would see him again and wishing she could get out of there unnoticed. She could hear the faint chords from Sam’s piano over the din of laughter and drunken conversation, and she nursed her Manhattan (What had happened to her martini? she wondered), thinking about Victor, her husband the hero,  who was speaking at a meeting somewhere in Casablanca. She glance again at the mirror. Would Rick come back into the bar now that he knew she was there? She drank the last swallow of this elixir and set the empty glass on the bar to catch the bartender’s attention. He came over and looked at her expectantly. He was a short man and very skinny, with his shirt sleeves rolled up neatly to his elbows and his black hair parted above his right ear. He smiled at her and Ilse thought his expression intimated his knowledge of so many secrets that might break her heart or Rick’s, or that might ruin Victor’s reputation. She set her jaw and ordered a gin and tonic.

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Cook’s tour

Tom’s father parallel-parked the car on a side street, turned off the engine, glanced at his mother (who was sitting in the front passenger seat), and got out of the car. His mother unfastened her own seatbelt, glanced in the rearview mirror at Tom, who caught her eye even as he tried to focus on gathering his things. Tom swung open his door and climbed out, stretching his long legs after the three-hour drive. He tied the soccer warmup jacket around his waist as his father rubbed his hands together expectantly.

“Okay,” his father said, clapping his hands together once, as if to fire the starting shot. “We have ninety minutes to see this place before I have to get back to the hotel for my next meeting.”

Tom’s mother linked her arm through his and when he didn’t immediately pull away, she smiled up at him. He was a full head taller than his mother and he found some kind of comfort in knowing what the part of her brown hair looked like. He was taller than his younger sisters, Emily and Elizabeth, who were tall enough, for girls who weren’t done growing, and he liked to think that he knew their mother best because he could see more of her than they could: he could take her all in. On the other hand, he was pretty certain that this Cook’s tour of this college campus wasn’t going to make a difference in his final decision-making process. What could he possibly learn about this place in less than two hours?