Nicholas kicked the black cat away from the door to the bar.
“Do you not like cats?” Serendipity asked.
“Just a stray – doesn’t belong to anybody.”
“You don’t think it’s bad luck to kick it like that? It’s a black cat.”
“It’s bad luck for it,” he said.
He stomped the ground as the cat tried to creep back up. It ran away.
He held the door for her. She searched his eyes.
“For someone who plays such beautiful music, I didn’t expect that.”
She sighed, then walked through the door, kicking him in the shin as she passed. Nicholas cursed.
“That,” she said, walking up to the bar where there were two open seats.
Nicholas hobbled over, still carrying his violin case.
“Look, this wasn’t exactly my idea …” he began to say when Alex interrupted him from behind the bar.
“Nick! What are you doing bothering this beautiful, young woman?”
“We’re just talking,” he said.
“That’s what I mean,” Alex laughed. He turned to Serendipity. “Now, I promised this guy a free drink earlier today. I can’t be giving away free drinks to everyone, but if he’s any sort of gentleman, I’m sure he’ll give that one to you.”
Nicholas set his violin down on the empty seat next to them, and then sat.
“Alex, that free drink is mine. But because I’m some sort of gentleman, all her drinks are on me tonight.”
“Are you assuming plural?” Serendipity asked.
“I’m not having just one,” Nicholas said.
“So gentlemanly and creepy at the same time,” Alex said to Serendipity, “I can vouch for him, though. He’s a stand up guy. Even after plural drinks. I’ve watched him stumble home when most other guys would be on their face.”
“Watching me walk home? Now who’s the creep?” Nicholas said.
“You better believe it,” Alex clapped his hands and laughed, “Well, what are you starting with?”
“Let’s see what you have,” Serendipity asked, leaning over the counter to look at the shelves of bottles behind Alex. Her hair flowed over the counter. Alex looked at Nicholas and nodded in approval. Nicholas shook his head.
“You know, I make a great Long Island Ice …” Alex began but then Serendipity interrupted him.
“That Balvenie 21 year – we’ll each have one of those.”
Alex laughed and then looked at Nicholas. “Well … this just got expensive for both of us.”
“She has good taste,” Nicholas said, smiling. “Although it’s been a long time since I’ve drank scotch.”
“A long time is too long,” Serendipity said.
“Two of them.”
“Ice?” Alex asked.
“Neat … I have it on good authority it’s always supposed to be neat,” Serendipity said.
“Let’s make sure you’re a regular here,” Alex said, then walked over to get the bottle.
Serendipity looked around the room. Nicholas looked around at the other regulars. The place was warm-spirited. Not flashy, not too many televisions. It wasn’t the cleanest, but it had its own class.
“This is a good place, I like it. Has personality,” she said.
“It does, it’s like a second home to me,” Nicholas said. “I haven’t been here as much as I used to be, but anytime I come out it’s always right.”
“So you live here?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m local. Most of us around during this time of year are. It’s still the off-season. What brings you through here?”
“I like to travel, it’s never really an off-season to me,” she said.
Alex brought the drinks over.
“Enjoy,” he said, then walked over to some of the other customers at the bar.
“He’s a good guy,” Nicholas said, “He makes this place what it is.”
He reached for his glass. Serendipity lifted hers.
“To music on the shore,” she said.
He lifted his glass to hers, and they took a drink.
Serendipity thought for a moment.
“I chose well,” she said.
“You absolutely did.”
He looked at her, and she met his eyes.
“Hey, before … anything … I’m not really looking for anything right now,” Nicholas said. “I doubt that was even on the table, but I just wanted to make sure. Not that I think you were making a move on me or anything, god knows. But just so you knew I’m not trying to …”
Serendipity nodded her head.
“I understand. Just two lonely people sharing a drink.”
She took another drink and set it back on the table.
“I do have someone though,” she said.
“Is he here with you?” Nicholas asked.
“No,” she said.
Serendipity nodded. “That’s the lonely part. You know how that is?”
He met her eyes.
“I could hear it in your music,” she said. “Tell me about yourself.”
Nicholas took a drink.
“My wife passed away a little over five years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“How long were you married?”
“Six and a half years. We’d met a little later in life. But once we found each other we knew.” Nicholas looked around the bar. He shook his head, looking back at Serendipity. “Sorry,” he said, motioning to his throat. “She loved this place too.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “What was her name?”
“Emily,” he said, clearing his throat. “She got sick. She didn’t suffer long.” He coughed and then cleared his throat again. “Some people don’t get it. You know, we were only together six and half years, and now she’s been gone for about five, so it’s like I should have moved on …”
Serendipity reached over and squeezed his hand.
“The right people are timeless.”
“So is that why you don’t date?” she asked.
“I’ve dated here and there. Doesn’t really feel right. I guess I keep carrying her with me, like she’s still here. Phantom limb … or maybe just a phantom.”
“Sometimes people stay,” Serendipity said.
“I don’t really believe in that sort of stuff,” he said. “But I definitely understand how people do. You want to believe anything that helps you feel better.”
“What sort of stuff?” Serendipity asked.
“Ghosts … spirits … that there’s really anything after this.”
“Rationally I just don’t see a reason to. Like – what about us could exist after we’re dead?”
Serendipity thought for a few moments.
“What about you exists at any point?” she asked.
“Well, we’re here, physically, sharing a drink together. So we exist now.”
“But why do we exist at all? Thoughts. Feelings. Love.”
Nicholas took another drink, thinking. He hadn’t had a conversation like this for a long time, and opening up felt like he was exercising muscles that were either stiff or atrophied. He wasn’t sure that he liked it, but he liked Serendipity, and something inside him instinctively wanted to trust her.