Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 5, 1999
The bar was packed for a Wednesday night, making it hard for Celeste to get the scary looking bartender’s attention amidst the throng of bodies crushed against the smoky bar. Celeste adjusted the comfortable, yet frilly, tank top that she was sporting this evening. It was dusty rose, form fitting and had a built in bra that her, larger than average, chest kept wanting to mutiny from. Her jeans were a little too big and long for her, even though she was five feet, eight inches tall, but she tended to couple one tight piece of clothing with one baggy piece. She liked the juxtaposition—imagined that it was sexy. Her multicolored, patched handbag was slung casually over her right shoulder and laid on her left hip but it contained nothing other than a four-year-old cell phone that her mother had made her take, a simple hair tie that she would pull her long dirty blonde locks into at some point this evening and a wallet full of nothing much other than her ID and a few small bills. She was good at hiding valuables. Being a world traveler at the age of twenty-three made you astute and congenially suspicious of your fellow man.
Everyone was clamoring for each other’s attention and laughing, pushing forward trying to buy bottles of beer and glasses of cheap well drinks. As she folded her twenty dollar bill lengthways and stuck it out to make her alcohol buying intentions better known, she glanced back at Padma and Joshua, her new friends from the Albuquerque City Youth Hostel, where they were all staying, a few blocks from the bar. The cramped dance floor forced the two of them to stand very close to each and they were cutely awkward about it. Celeste smiled. She liked these two and she could tell, in that way of hers, that they liked each other too but were too shy to do anything about it. It was decided—she would have to make the first move for them. Of course, it would be clandestine enough to make it seem like their idea. Happily, they seemed inexperienced enough to probably not notice her meddling…
…Padma’s open beauty transcended age and her kind manner made her even that much more likable. Her attire tonight was much the same as every other time Celeste had spent time with her; flowing skirts, lots of chunky jewelry and finely polished hair and nails. She was eccentric, yet stunning. And she had the natural kindness that could win over the most hardened cynic and Josh, in his plaid shirts and combat boots, had come across as a cynic right from the start… But Padma was totally the opposite and once she understood Celeste’s needs, she had said that the three should combine all of their ingredients to make one big family meal. Upon hearing that suggestion Josh looked like he was about to burst a capillary or run away screaming but by the last drop of after dinner cardamom and cinnamon tea, compliments of Padma, he was laughing and acting like they were all old friends. After that night together there had been a new and completely different look in his eye every time he was around Padma.
The bartender shouted at her and she turned to lean over the wooden bar and yell her order at him over the loud music and raucously lively bar sounds. With not so much as a smile, the efficient seeming bartender was off to fill her order. Celeste could only assume it was the demands of a busy day that created his unfriendly attitude since he took two more orders as he quickly moved around the inside of the large bar. She watched him reaching into the cooler, grabbing bottles and throwing the handle of the keg to fill a glass and decided that he was just no non-sense, hard working and possibly the only bartender working tonight, so she decided to give him a good tip.
While she waited for her drinks, Celeste let her gaze sweep around the bar, imagining what all of these moving bodies really wanted out of this place. She just wanted to get to know her friends a little better and have an experience worthy of recording in her daily travel journal when she got back to her room. She spotted a mysteriously handsome man leaning on the far wall near the back entrance and did a double take. He was that hot, albeit weird, guy from the train. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that his gaze was fixed directly on her. That couldn’t be a coincidence.
This guy was seriously good looking, like Hollywood gorgeous. Most of the guys that liked her were nice, smart college-bound type guys. Attractive, but not really the kind of guy you liked for his overt sexuality or heart throb exterior. Celeste knew she was considered pretty, if you liked that sort of thing, but she wasn’t the kind of physical beauty that solicited deep soul crushing stares like the one this guy was throwing her way. In all honesty, it was more odd than it was flattering. Despite this illicit attention from such a stud, she was distractingly aware of a weird sensation starting in her head, sort of behind her forehead. She touched it absently wondering if she was developing a migraine.
The bartender thumped three heavy Newcastle’s on the bar in front her and she jumped, startled into turning her attention to the beer delivery. She handed him the twenty and held up her hand to show that she didn’t want any change back. He broke a quick smile of gratitude and then stalked off to fill more drink orders. Celeste had waited tables for about five seconds in college and she knew what it was like to work in this sort of environment. Poor guy probably wouldn’t get a break for another five hours. As she grabbed the beer bottles by the neck, she dared another look in the direction of the hot guy. “Yep, still watching me. Damn this is weird.”