Love & Other Disasters

Chapter One

Violet Murphy weaved around the slow moving vehicles in Nashville traffic. After leaving the office a few minutes late, it might make her an hour behind schedule. Driving across town during rush hour was rage inducing even for the calmest person. By the time Violet turned onto the ritzy Belle Meade Street, she needed a drink. Her phone rang, and she pressed the answer button on the steering wheel.

“Where are you? You’re not bailing on me. I will come find you,” Elle’s voice filled the car.

       “Almost there. Traffic,” Violet said.

       “Fine, but if you’d left on time.”

       “I’d still be late… and don’t lecture me.”

       “This wouldn’t happen if you worked for me... Like I’ve asked.”

       “What? So I could leave work early to go drinking with the boss. How would that look?”

       “Yes, but you don’t tell people that.”

       Violet sighed. “I’m almost there.”

       “I’m ready for drinking and dancing, and you’re holding that up.”

       “Since when?”

       “Okay, I am one martini in, but I’d rather be telling the hot dude behind a bar to ‘put it on my tab.’”

       “I’m pulling up to your driveway now.” The phone disconnected, and she reached out the car window to enter the code, but the gate was already opening. She pulled her little sedan up the driveway to the mansion where Elle lived alone. She’d started dating a Cybersecurity expert named Brent six weeks ago, and he came running when she wanted and left when she told him. The arrangement served both of them. It seemed like a match made in heaven, or wherever matches of convenience are made.

       The sprawling and stylish abode had large white columns, a well-manicured lawn, and topiaries by the front door. It was the first thing that Elle bought when her cosmetics company, Pure Botanicals, hit the big-time.

       “You shouldn’t leave this open,” she called, stepping inside the mudroom which had never seen an ounce of mud. “Anyone can walk right in.”

       “And anyone just did,” Elle quipped. She stepped into view wielding a full martini glass and wearing a curve hugging, black, off-the-shoulder cocktail dress that was to die for.

Compared to her best friend, Elle Parker, whose elegance and glamor knew no bounds, Violet was a plain jane with mousy hair and an addiction to bargain dresses. It should be easy to hate such a woman; pretty, successful, and with a well-toned butt to boot. But she was someone who’d been there for Violet through everything. And they’d been friends since college, well before all the success. After witnessing Elle’s dedication and work ethic she put in the company, she deserved all of it. Even if Violet’s life had stalled.

“I feel underdressed.”

“I can fix that,” she waived a dismissive hand. “You brought your contact lenses, right?”

Violet patted her handbag, “Right here.” She adjusted her glasses, now self-conscious. She hated contact lenses and never wore them, but Elle had asked. Why didn’t she question the reasoning earlier?

“Good. Let’s get you ready.”

“Elle. Where are we going?”

“Out,” she said, turning up the glass.

“That’s not a dress for bar hopping,” Violet said, unease rising.

“I have the perfect ensemble for you,” she motioned for Violet to follow and started through the kitchen.

Violet crossed her arms. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me.”

She paused and turned back, her bare feet on the porcelain tile. “Okay, just a teeny-tiny change of plans.”

“How teeny-tiny?”

“Vi,” she sighed. “An old college friend of Brent’s is in town, and he wants to meet up with him. Brent asked me to join them. Instead of canceling our plans, I thought you could come.” She grimaced.

“Is this a setup?” Violet stared at those blue eyes of hers to tell if she lied.

“God, no… I’ve never met this guy. You’re my distraction from them talking football, or business, or whatever antics they got up to back in the day. Not to date the guy.”

Elle appeared sincere, so Violet accepted her fate and sighed. “It must be serious if you’re doing this for him.”

“He has a talented tongue,” she shrugged.

Violet laughed. “You’re gross. Is that all you think about?”

“Rarely,” Elle sighed. “And, he’s confident enough to date me and not act like a douche. That’s a rare thing to find.”

The problem for Elle was finding a man not intimidated by her career and who was also not a jerk. Violet resigned herself to help. “Where is this place?”

“The Rabbit.”

The Rabbit was a small plate and cocktail bar downtown in the well-known Printer’s Alley. It was an area filled with tourists, and not somewhere they’d frequent, but hey, this night had potential for excitement.

“What the hell. Let’s do this,” Violet said.

“Yay.” Elle turned. “I have ideas for your makeup. What about a push up bra?”

“I think I’ll keep my underwear, thank you.” She hurried after her friend up the gigantic staircase with the modern metal banister to the owner’s suite. It was a spacious room with a walk-in closet the size of her bedroom. Elle’s bedroom, like everything else, was decorated in creams and light pink. Above the carefully put together bedding with fifteen pillows on the huge four post bed, hung an abstract painting by an artist from out in East Tennessee.

The dark, rich sapphire blue dress hung on the door showcasing a boat neck collar and an A-line skirt. It was gorgeous and something she’d admire in a store but would never dare to try on. Violet’s style was cotton poly-blends purchased at the stores where they discount name brand items by half or more. Tonight, it was time to push herself out of her comfort zone and into proper style.

“Now, hurry,” Elle said. “Pop those contacts in. It’s time to get dressed.”

Violet did as she was told and in fifteen minutes she was primed, spackled, and painted until no longer recognizable. The false eyelashes Elle attached to her lids made them heavy. What if they made it difficult to keep her eyes open? And would they slide down and get glued to her contact lens? Would she regret tonight?

But as Violet slid into the blue dress that might cost more than her years’ salary, her heart pounded in her chest. She needed a night to unwind; it wasn’t something she did often. And she should have fun with it. Violet twirled around to Elle’s laugh and eye roll.

“Turn around,” she ordered, pulling hair pins from a drawer. She did as instructed, and Elle twisted her hair into a chic chignon, then sprayed enough hairspray to kill the ozone layer.

The watch on her wrist dinged. “Our ride’s here,” she said tapping the screen.

“You ordered a ride?”

“Tonight’s for fun. And nothing gets in the way of drinking.”

“What’s gotten into you?”

 “Too much work and not enough play,” Elle said.

“I must make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”

She laughed. “Our ride awaits.”

 

 

 

They found the Rabbit in the corner of an old brick building along Printer’s Alley. It boasted the claim-to-fame of being the same spot of Jimmy Hoffa’s lawyer’s office. The restaurant had patio seating with string lights hung overhead from the building to the fence posts. Even on a sweltering night in early June, several people gathered around outside tables, drinking. Laughter floated out of the alley. The exposed brick walls were authentic to the building showcasing the duct work. There was rich brown hardwood flooring throughout and comfortable options of bar seats, high top tables, or couches and armchairs in front of a fireplace.

“Are these floors original?” The scuffs and imperfections that covered the floor made it appear so gorgeous. Was it history or created to fool people? “Do you think we’re walking where Hoffa once stood?”

“I don’t see Brent anywhere,” Elle ignored her and sounded annoyed, but then smiled. “Who cares, let’s have a drink.”

Violet laughed. “Did you call him?”

“I texted him we were on our way in the car.” She moved through the crowd to the bar. The giant television hung on the wall lit up with a European club soccer game. A row of bearded hipster guys broke eye contact with the screen to check out Elle. Everyone noticed her friend.

“You haven’t heard back?” Violet ignored all the men ogling Elle.

Elle scowled and raised her hand to get the bartender’s attention. But she needn’t bother, he was already there with a wide smile, eager to please. If Violet tried it, she would have resorted to standing on a barstool and shouting, and then get scolded for being too drunk. She wasn’t. True story. Invisibility to the opposite sex was her superpower. Using her power, she scoped out their surroundings. Other women sat out in the restaurant area, but the bar part was hipster dude central. Most of them young, although a few dressed as though trying hard to hold onto that youth.

On the other end of the bar sat a guy with messy, sandy blond hair nursing a glass of amber colored liquid. Under the suit jacket, his shirt opened at the collar where he’d shed his tie. Clean shaven, he stood out from the others. Cute but a bit “bro” in that former frat guy way. But all grown up and a serious business man who wears expensive suits and unwinds with a glass of whiskey or another fancy beverage. What work did he do?  Then his eyes landed on her, Violet turned, heart thudding in her chest. She didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. Guys who looked like him historically didn’t show any interest in her. She was safe in that knowledge.  

Elle didn’t flirt with the bartender, she didn’t have to, she appeared uninterested and the guys flocked. A woman who knew what she wanted and her self-sufficiency evident in her body language. She started a tab and two drinks arrived on the bar.

“What’s this?” Violet asked.

“It’s called Hoffa’s inside job.”

She thought she was funny. “What’s in it?”

“Bourbon.” She smiled, holding her glass up in a toast. They clinked glasses and Violet held her breath, hoping this wasn’t too strong. It slid down smooth.  “Hey, that’s good.”

“Why’d you ever doubt me?”

“The moonshine incident.”

Elle pointed at Violet. “We vowed to never speak of that again.”

“No, you vowed it. I was still in the hospital receiving fluids intravenously.”

“God, you’re such a baby,” she flashed an exaggerated grin, then sipped her drink, glancing around the bar. “Don’t look now,” Elle said with her glass covering her mouth. “Suited guy, eleven o’clock is checking you out.”

 “Frat Guy?” Violet guessed, not moving. “Definitely not checking me out.” On the television the men in uniforms fought over a soccer ball.  

Elle shook her head. “It’s been a few years since this guy was in a fraternity.”

“Oh, I know. He’s still very ‘bro’ and still not checking me out.”

“Don’t be so judgmental or you’ll never get laid. And yeah, he is.” The watch on her wrist lit up and vibrated. She tapped it reading, and frowned. “Brent’s running late. Jesus, he’s the whole reason we’re even here.”

“Let’s go grab a couch,” Violet gulped her drink.

“You should go talk to Frat Guy,” she said.

“What? No way.” Violet glanced in his direction, and he was still there and looking at them.

“Come on, why not? Live a little.” Elle signaled the bartender for more drinks.

Violet took in the already empty glass in her hand. When did she finish her drink?

“Look, you’re hot, so you don’t understand what it’s like for us normal girls. A guy like that dates Russian supermodels with six feet of leg and zero percent body fat named Katia. I, however, am missing seven inches and want eight of those pork tacos on the menu and wondering how big the jar of cheesecake is.”

Elle stared for a beat. “Okay, gluttony aside. Have you seen yourself tonight? You darling, are a babe.”

Maybe so, but the real Violet hid somewhere under seventy layers of spackle, paint, and an entire can of hairspray.

“Tonight is about fun and blowing off steam, right? Let’s not let the small change of plans ruin it. Besides, we have a bit of a reprieve with the guys running late.”

True. “I guess. But I’m still not talking to Frat Guy.”

“Yeah you are. He’s coming this way,” Elle said, handing her a drink.

“It’s not me,” Violet sipped. “Guys don’t come up to me in bars. It’s you.”

“Tonight’s tab says it’s you.”

“Prepare to lose.”

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