Telling Lies in the Hotel Bar

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She brought the shot glass to her lips, drained it, set it back down on the bar.

“I’m going to lie to you.”

He paused, his own shot halfway to his lips, and raised his eyebrows.

“Okay?”

“I just decided.”

“Okay. Well then I’ll lie to you too.” The vodka was smoother than he expected. It burned, but just a little, and it lit a fire in him like vodka should.

“That’s only fair.”

The barman was way down at the other end of the too-long hotel bar. She took a bill – he couldn’t make out what – from her purse and waved it at him until he looked their way. Then, without waiting, she pointed at the bottle that he’d left just under the raised part of the bar in front of them, reached over, took it and dropped the money in its place. The barman looked like he wasn’t all that happy about it and wanted to come down to sort things out by the book, but he was stuck with a group of middle aged men who seemed to be arguing over the drink menu, both with each other and with him.

She filled his glass, then hers, then put the bottle between them.

“Are you going to lie to me about everything?”

“No, not everything. Just some things. Y’know, sometimes you’re in the mood.”

“In the mood to lie? I’m not sure I know that one.”

“Just drink, maybe that’ll help.”

They shared a smile as they touched their short, heavy glasses together, then they shot them back perfectly in sync.

“This is good, what is it?”

“Vodka.”

“No, I know, I mean, what…?” He picked up the bottle and started mouthing the name – sounding it out. He didn’t want to say it out loud. Whenever he tried something like that he just felt he sounded like an imbecile.

“It’s Polish. It’s good right? I saw they had it behind the bar so I asked the guy for a shot before you came in.”

“How did you find out about it?” He turned the bottle around, just enjoying looking at the unfamiliar text.

“I’m Polish.” He looked over at her sharply, raising his eyebrows again. He’d thought that she wasn’t paying attention, but she was looking right at him, eyes so perfectly black in the quarter-light of the bar that they must have been the darkest brown. He liked her hair, curly and dark and cut short so it spiralled off her head in a controlled mess. It stayed up in a way that really flattered the curve of her neck. That gorgeous arc was maybe what he’d noticed when he’d come down from his room into the bar. That was why he’d sat next to her.

“I think this is one of the things you’re lying about. You’re not Polish,” he grinned.

“I’m not lying, I’m serious this time. Born here but one hundred percent Polish heritage. Where are you from?”

“You mean where did I come from, or my heritage?”

“Your…” she took the bottle from him and turned it idly herself as she felt for a word, “your stock.”

“My stock?” He laughed and leaned back on the stool. “Well, I would say… European melange I suppose.” She looked over at him, smiling with only the side of her mouth closest to him.

“What’s your name?”

“Jay. What’s yours?”

“Jay?” she didn’t answer, “That’s short for something though, right?”

“Yes it is, but I won’t tell you what.”

“You could just lie, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Ah yes, I forgot. Short for…” he couldn’t think of anything, “…Joe.” She gave him a long look that showed, explicitly, how unimpressed she was.

“Joe isn’t shorter than Jay, I don’t think you really understand how this…”

“Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter! What’s your name?”

“Natasha.”

“That’s a really nice name. It would be great if you were really called that.” She made a face that he couldn’t read and looked back down the bar at the barman. He was still finishing off the drinks of the big group who had – to a man – all rolled up their sleeves and loosened their ties. She thought for a moment and refilled both of their shots again. To the lip of the glass, again.

“I was going to call it a night,” she explained, although the situation hadn’t called for an explanation. “But I guess I can stay for another couple.”

He didn’t know a great deal about hotels, and this one in particular kind of threw him. He couldn’t tell if it was a new place that they hadn’t done a great job decorating, or an old place that they’d done really well at updating in places. The bar though, was new through-and-through, recessed lighting everywhere, all set to give the bare minimum of illumination, and smooth black faux-granite surfaces inlaid with faux-mahogany.

He never usually came down for a drink by himself in hotel bars like this, and never usually struck up conversations with strange women like this, but he was glad he was setting a precedent.

“So what do you do ‘Natasha?'” he touched his glass but didn’t lift it, waiting for her cue. This was too fun, too perfect, he didn’t want to rush headlong into drunkenness.

“I… you know there’s a conference going on here? That big sign in the lobby.”

“Um, the… International Conference for Socio… escort ataşehir something…”

“Yeah, blah blah. That’s the one. I’m here for that.”

“Oh, so you’re like a… an academic? A scholar?”

“I suppose, something like that.” The liquor had overflowed her glass just a touch, and she lifted it and wiped the counter with a napkin. “How about you, ‘Joe’?” Her voice dripped scorn, still mocking him for his unimaginative pseudonym.

“I’m here working for a video game company. I don’t do the games I just do the advertising for them. My company has been working with this game company and now I have to fly here for the week to… blah blah.” He mimicked her.

“We should drink, it’s bad luck to leave these like this.”

“I agree.” Shot number three down and she turned to face him a little. She was wearing a dark purple dress, what, a party dress? A cocktail dress? He didn’t know how to put it but she looked sensational in it, and her legs, that he really shouldn’t have been looking at so much, looked even better. He tugged at his own suit jacket and hoped he wasn’t looking too bad himself.

“So you’re an ad guy! Like that TV show?”

“Yes,” he raised his empty shot glass, “I’m an ad guy like the guy from that TV show except not a monstrous asshole.” She smiled, lips pressed together, but she was looking at him straight now, and she’d been looking at him sidelong all night so far.

“Let’s go. Facts about ourselves. See if we can tell what’s truth and what’s a lie.”

“Ok,” he straightened up more, put his glass down. “Quick fire?”

“Yes, taking it in turns.”

“Ok.” He turned to face her then took a breath. “I own a dog.”

“I’m a licensed chiropractor.”

“We’re just going? We’re not guessing true or not after each one?”

“Just go.”

“When I get drunk I usually try to play the piano in bars.” He indicated the baby-grand not ten feet from where they were sitting and she smirked.

“When I get drunk I challenge people to stupid physical challenges I can never win.”

“I can speak four languages.”

“What languages?”

“Ah… French, Ger… German…”

“Lie!” she snorted with laughter and it was oh so very cute. “I survived a car crash that totalled my car.”

“I once met Paul McCartney.”

“I’m allergic to celery.”

“I have been arrested twice, never charged.” She raised her eyebrows at that, and paused a second before her next statement.

“I have a husband.” He looked at her carefully.

“How old are you?”

“Oh that’s smooth.”

“I’m serious, I can’t tell. If you’re old enough to be married. Realistically I mean.” She snorted another laugh. The way it punctured her grace and composure was very, very attractive.

“Clearly I’m old enough to be married. I am married.”

With a shock he realised that the bartender had been standing right next to them for who-knew-how-long, looking on, grimly impassive. It looked like she was only just aware of him too, and they both looked over to the big man at the same time. He took the money she’d dropped and looked at her questioningly, not saying a word.

“Keep it,” she waved him away, and away he went.

“Did you buy the bottle? I thought we were sneaking shots.”

“That would have been more fun, wouldn’t it?” She grinned, open and glowing for the first time and – boom – a little detonation occurred in his chest.

“I can’t let you…”

“Relax it’s all on expenses anyway. Mine or yours what does it matter?”

The big group of men with the bare forearms and open collars were getting louder and drunker at the other end of the room, and the barman was spending all his time with them. It was a long room with plenty of tables and not many people but still the relaxed atmosphere was dying in there.

“You know,” he said, “I heard there’s another bar up on the third floor.”

“On the third?” She frowned.

“I think I read it somewhere. Maybe it’s a bit better up there. Want to check it out?”

She kept him hanging for a moment, but broke into another perfect, genuine smile. “Sure, why not?”

She took the bottle, he took the glasses.

– – –

Rumours of there being a bar on the third floor had, it turned out, been greatly exaggerated if not completely fabricated.

He was pretty confused about it. He hadn’t seen it clearly, but he was sure he’d seen something in the mess of papers and leaflets on the table in his room about there being a bar up here. But all they found were corridors eerily empty of either guests or staff.

“The thought just crossed my mind that perhaps I should be a little suspicious of your motives for dragging me up here.”

They turned a corner and found themselves at a final dead end. There was nowhere else to go on this level. And no bar.

“Wouldn’t I have just asked you up to my room?” he shrugged, trying to make it sound as light and jokey as possible.

“You think I would’ve gone to your room?” Her withering tone slashed at him, slapped him back into kadıköy escort place. “No, this way you get to drag me into one of these random closets and strangle me without leaving evidence in your room.”

“Oh c’mon, let’s just head back downstairs and have one more…”

He stopped as he glanced up and saw the wicked smile curled across her pretty face.

“I don’t think you’re a murderer ‘Joe’.”

“Well that’s something at least.”

There was a beat of silence as they stepped back around the corner, back the way they had come and stared down the empty corridor. It was surreal to be in a hotel, the kind of place you would expect to always be able to hear some trace of humanity coming through the walls, and for there to be so little sign of life. It was totally silent, albeit the fake kind of silence that gives way to the hum and groan of heating and air conditioning when you tune back into it.

“I suppose we do have to head back downstairs though…”

“Unless…” she started. He thought for a moment, pinching his lower lip between his thumb and forefinger.

“Unless…” he nodded. He took two steps to the nearest door. Dark wood, with some stylish metal strip set into it. “Locked or unlocked?”

She opened up again and grinned, then gracefully slipped out of her heels and picked them up by their straps before answering. She stood there looking at him with his hand on the door handle, barefoot on the hotel carpet with her heels in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other and he knew he was doing something right.

“Locked.”

He turned the handle… and hung his head as it wouldn’t move more than a quarter of an inch.

“One point!” she giggled.

“Please don’t keep score.” He crossed the hallway diagonally to the next door. “Locked or unlocked?”

“Locked.”

He held his breath and tried it, and this time the handle turned smoothly.

“One – one.”

“Stop it,” he shot back. “Laundry room, cleaning cupboard, office or…” She bit her lower lip on the left hand side and he felt his heart beat a little faster.

“Cleaning cupboard.”

He paused just a moment for dramatic effect, then pushed the door open. Mops and a vacuum cleaner and shelves and shelves of cleaning products. He sighed and glanced back over his shoulder to see her fixing him with a look that managed to be triumphant, smug and sexy all at the same time. He closed the door and slipped the two shot glasses out of his jacket pocket where they had been clinking together.

She poured, right there in the hallway, and he was amazed that both of them were steady enough that they didn’t spill a drop.

“Na zdrowie.” She smirked.

– – –

Most of the doors were locked of course, and of those that weren’t most rooms were only interesting in that their stillness and emptiness gave them an unnervingly creepy quality. There were several rooms that must have been small conference suites or function rooms, but they were completely empty – not even a chair to be seen.

In the third such room the light didn’t seem to work, so working on a mutual dare they held hands and stepped inside, letting the door close behind them and vanishing into the void. He didn’t grab her, he didn’t kiss her, he just walked with her, a slow, heart-pounding stroll through the blackness listening to each other breathe.

When they were almost back at the elevator bank they’d ridden up in they finally found it.

The double-doors were really no bigger than those of the smaller suites, but they opened onto a short antechamber with another pair of doors on the opposite wall. And through those doors was a ballroom.

Some kind of larger circuit must have been cut, because flipping as many light switches as they could only brought some dim wall lights to life. The great, hanging chandeliers that they could see above them remained dark and dead.

The ballroom answered his questions about the age of the hotel. It looked much older than the rest of the building, with a light wooden floor that would never have been laid at the same time as all the darker timber they had gone with for the refurbishment.

They gave up on the lights when there was enough illumination to see by, and she laid the vodka and her shoes on the floor and set off, running barefoot into the cavernous hall.

He picked the vodka back up and followed her at a slower pace. This place was the kind of surprise that he loved – the kind of space that you would never expect to find in a hotel like this. It must have risen three floors through the middle of the building, but walking around the corridors upstairs you would never notice unless you knew it was here.

This place wasn’t empty like the smaller suites either. Chairs were stacked head-high on one side, rank after rank of them, and one whole corner was occupied by a mass of tables. They were stacked on top of each other, tipped up against the wall, stored any way they could be.

It would’ve been spooky if he wasn’t on his way to a very happy drunkenness. maltepe escort bayan As it was it was just serene and secret. This whole giant space, just for them.

As he got further into the room he noticed that the opposite end of the hall from where they had entered was not a wall as he had thought, but a stage, raised up five feet or so off the ground. It was, in fact, a beautiful, classic proscenium arch complete with curtains that were probably a rich scarlet, but looked black in the twilight of the ballroom.

A piano stood, not on the stage, but down on the floor in front of it. She was sitting on the edge of the stage, barefeet dangling, watching him approach.

“Good, you brought the vodka. I forgot it.” He raised the bottle in acknowledgment then put the two glasses down on the stage beside her and poured.

“And it would have been quite the hike back over to the front door.”

“I can’t even see it from here,” she raised her hand, flat, over her eyes, pretending to peer against the glare of a non-existent sun.

“Yes you can, don’t be silly,” he scolded in a deadpan voice. He handed her a glass, looking into her eyes and loving how odd she was getting as she relaxed more and more. Then – he supposed she had been playing games and telling lies right from the start. It was just that now she seemed to be enjoying it. She seemed to be enjoying everything.

“Will this help me see better, Doctor?” Her eyes sparkled, big fake doe-eyes in the darkness.

“Of course. But you must remember to take it regularly.”

“How regularly?”

“Every few minutes.” She broke character with a raised eyebrow.

“Well I don’t really want to pass out just yet, so let’s maybe not go that fast, ‘Joe’.”

“That’s probably for the best, ‘Natasha’. Now, how did it go?” He raised the shot glass.

“Na Zdrowie,” she said again and he repeated a mangled, clumsy version of the same. Then they drank, and then to his surprise she took the bottle and immediately refilled their glasses.

“I thought we were slowing down?”

“Medically,” she glanced up at him, smiling faintly, “I think I can take another couple before I need to be careful.”

“So, Polish huh?”

“It was true,” she nodded. Then she reached out, touched her glass to his and shot the spirit back again. He rushed to follow suit, his throat still hot from the previous shot. He put his back to the stage and boosted himself up so he was sitting next to her.

“And… are you married?”

She didn’t answer, just threw her head back and leaned back away from him, supporting herself with her hands. He looked at her beside him, the perfect curve of her slender neck again, and this time letting himself look for a moment at the rise of her chest, her breasts pressing up and forwards behind her thin dress as she stretched backwards. It was so dark, but still the light caught the full, heavy swell of them.

In his head the vodka buzz was joined by the thump of his heartbeat.

“It looks like there’s a whole backstage back there,” she said, her head still hanging back, her voice echoing off the back wall of the stage.

“We’re going to be killed by the ghosts of failed vaudeville performers that took their lives on this very stage,” he whispered dramatically and she sat back up straight with a bark of laughter.

He had been thinking, of course, from the start about how well this was going and how far it was going to go. It was, every instinct told him, going very well indeed, but he was hardly a serial seducer so what he ought to do at any time was hopelessly obscure to him. He was happy to just play it cool and see where this went, so when she leaned against him, putting her head on his shoulder and laying her slender hand on his, he couldn’t help but feel a touch of panic mixed in with the elation.

Now it felt like there were stakes on the table. For a split second he thought this might be something that he could fuck up, then he got control of himself and just enjoyed it.

“I think,” she said, soft but not sleepy. “That you were arrested. I think that was true.”

“It was.” He leaned into her a little and moved his arm behind her, not around her but as though he was giving her something to lean against.

“Why? What did you do?”

“The first time was a mistake. Me and a buddy were walking home through this neighbourhood after a show and there’d been some break in and they thought it could have been us so…”

“The second time?”

“I got too drunk and made a fool of myself.”

“Hmm,” he felt the warmth of her, her bare arm through the jacket and shirt he was still wearing. “Maybe I should cut you off.”

“It wasn’t just the alcohol. I think you’re safe.” He shifted his arm again, this time bringing it around her slender waist and resting his hand on her hip. The dress was cool silk over the heat of her body. Without even meaning to his fingers met the line of her underwear hidden beneath it. She didn’t say a word, but her hand slipped off his and onto his leg.

“I was thinking…” she started, but stopped almost immediately. He looked down at her, her dark hair, dress, bare legs just making shapes in the darkness. If she lifted her head now, if she turned to face him… “Is it true you play the piano when you’re drunk?”

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