this is in the same universe as “holding out for brownies.”
summary: Natasha didn’t know that much about wine at first, but she’s a quick learner.
contains: a feminist bookstore, a wine shop, queer ladies, friendship, complicated relationships, tea
The cash register is in the back of Ladies First, along the same wall as the espresso bar and pastry case that comprise the cafe. Natasha likes working the register. She sits on a stool high enough that her feet dangle if she doesn’t brace them on the shelf below the counter. It makes her feel like queen of all she surveys, in an ironic anti-kyriarchal way or something like that.
The woman in front of her is buying a gently used copy of Borderlands/La Frontera. Natasha tries to inconspicuously eavesdrop on the next two people in line.
“It’s not that I don’t like him,” says the guy with the Vivian Girls t-shirt. “It’s just, you know, I’ve been doing so well. ‘Don’t fuck the crazy!’ It’s my mantra! Tell me I haven’t been doing a good job since Alex.”
“You’ve been doing a great job since Alex,” his companion says, combing her fingers through her bright pink sideswept bangs. “But maybe you need to keep up with this monastic purity quest of yours for a little while longer.”
“Ugh.” The guy rolls his eyes and steps forward, plunking Soy Not Oi! in front of Natasha. “Sorry,” he says to her. “Poly drama. I bet you hear that all the time.”
Natasha scans the barcode and shrugs. “You’d be surprised.”
“I need a rosé.” Megan was frowning at her iPhone. “To pair with a, uh, lobster thing.”
“Something dry?” Natasha asked, standing up; she was stocking and rearranging the Argentinian wines.
Megan gestured expansively, inarticulate. “Something pink,” she said.
“I’m thinking about getting certified as a sommelier,” Natasha has pillowed her head on Megan’s lap sleepily. “Or maybe working at a vineyard.”
“That’s really cool,” Megan says, scrunching her hand in the curls behind Natasha’s ear. “Having something you like that much.”
“Yeah,” Natasha says, even though liking isn’t really it at all.
The Monday night cafe volunteer was chatty and cute, a little flirtatious. She got on Natasha’s nerves. Wen didn’t talk very much. She poured water over the blossom carefully, evenly, and always put Natasha’s tea in a tempered glass mug instead of a ceramic cup or a compostable one to take home. Her scuffed clogs were loud on the wood floors.
The night she started crying before she left the bookstore was a Wednesday in April. It was late and Ladies First was quiet enough that Natasha thought no one might notice.
Wen came out from behind the counter to talk to her. “Do you want to be alone?” Wen asked, first. She had crossed the store to approach Natasha from the front, even though the cafe was behind her.
“I’m okay,” Natasha said, tightening her hands on the stack of papers in her lap.
Yes, she wanted to scream, but “No,” was what came out of her traitorous mouth.
“Wen said you have excellent taste in tea.” Kate was doing something with the computer, inventory, maybe. “That’s a good place to start.”
“Are you sure?” Natasha twisted her hands behind her back, sure she was screwing everything up already. “I mean — I’m a pretty quick learner, but I don’t know anything.”
“Sure you do,” Kate said. “Types of wine?”
“Um,” she said. “White. Red. Pink?”
Kate looked up from whatever she was typing and laughed. “We’ll work on it.”
“I kind of envy you.” Megan throws her bra somewhere in the general direction of Natasha’s closet. “You really know what you want out of life.”
“Hey, you know what you want,” Natasha says, sliding her hand up the curve beneath Megan’s breast.
“I meant life goals,” Megan says. “But this works. This totally works for me.”
Erin K. BartuskaI'm a writer, artist, and feminist-of-all-trades living in San Francisco. My passions include baking, social justice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and God.
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