Meet Me In the Hallway

We had made love earlier that day with no strings attached, but I could tell that something had changed - how you looked at me then.


A story in which a college student and an ex-performer are brought together at a downtown bar by a twist of fate.

*characters are not affiliated with real people, just their physical appearances and anything stated*

[WARNING: Strong language, Drug abuse, Sexual content]

copyright © justins_only_babe 2017



1. one

= Layne =


Smack. The box hits the floor, and the weight of my belongings inside causes the floor to shake.


"Could you keep it down up there? Jesus . . ." My neighbor shouts from beneath me.


I roll my eyes. "Yeah," I sigh, too quiet for him to hear me.


Before I dive into the box I just dropped on the floor, I decide to break down the other two I've already unpacked. The scissors are in the kitchen, so it only takes me five steps to go get them and come back. My apartment is so small but it's what I can afford. I don't need a big place anyway. I'm only one person living in downtown Chicago. It's also kind of nice because the bar downstairs is renting it out to me as long as I work there. I look at the clock and see that it's now 4:29. I have to be at said bar by 5 o'clock.


My face is makeup free, my hair is in a bun, I'm wearing sweatpants, no bra, a t-shirt, and fuzzy cat socks. I wouldn't exactly call this "suitable for the workplace." I know for sure that I haven't unpacked my makeup and toiletries. Almost instantly, I'm rummaging through the box in front of me, trying to find something to make me look less dead.


When I push the box away, I read the side that says 'random shit'. Explains why I couldn't find any shampoo. My hands tug the next box in front of me and it says 'toiletries' in very messy handwriting. Nick must have written it when he was helping me pack. My heart swells when I think of my little brother. Then my heart breaks because it hasn't even been two days and I already miss him so much.


I shake the thought of my younger brother out of my head and grab my shower stuff and makeup. I lock the bathroom door behind me and turn the shower water on. Once I'm undressed, I step into the scorching hot water and take a quick shower. The water stings my skin, waking up my tired body. After the conditioner is rinsed from my hair, I turn the water off and step out of the shower. Then I realize, I don't have a towel.


I groan in frustration and carefully step out of the bathroom. My apartment only has wood flooring, so the likelihood of me slipping and falling is high. As soon as I step out of the bathroom, my entire body is covered in goosebumps. I tiptoe into my living room and start rummaging through the boxes. Eventually, I get to the box labelled 'bathroom'. My hands tear open the box and pull one of the towels to my body. I wrap it tightly around myself and rush back to the bathroom.


The steam has slowly begun to disappear from the mirror so I can see my reflection from the waist down. My phone is on the kitchen counter so I have no idea what time it is. After I'm dry, I cover my body in lotion and walk back into the rest of my apartment. My hands grab the clothes I threw onto my bed earlier and I quickly put them on. I fall onto my bed when I'm putting on my black jeans. I guess I should have waited longer because they're sticking to the lotion on my legs.


My hair is still damp when I put my mascara and eyeliner on. I pull on a pair of grey socks to match my shirt and find my boots next to the door. Once the laces are tied, I check my phone and see that it's 4:55. I grab my purse from the counter, turn off the only lamp - currently - in my apartment, and head out the door.


I take the stairs rather than the elevator because I only live on the third floor. Additionally, it's free exercise. I never make the effort to actually be athletic, so walking up and down three flights of stairs - more than twice a day - is enough physical activity for me. I pass by a girl with blonde hair and dark clothes and makeup on my way to the lobby. I give her a smile and she looks away from me. It doesn't  bother me. Most of the people in downtown Chicago are kept to themselves and don't smile at strangers.


I step out into the late summer air and turn right. The bar is directly under my apartment building so it isn't that long of a walk. The door is at the corner where two sidewalks meet. I pull open the door and there are two people sitting at the bar, a couple in the dining room, and a fairly young man walking out of the bathroom. He sees me and smiles.


"You must be Layne." He says and begins walking toward me, "I'm Ed, I own the place - well, my parents own the place but I'm more involved with it."


Ed holds his hand out to me and I shake it. "It's nice to meet you," I say and tuck a piece of hair behind my ear.


"Alright, so, we're a little old fashioned here. You don't clock in at the register, you punch in with this little machine and I take them every Friday morning, count up your hours, determine your pay, and directly deposit money into your account."


I follow him across the room and to the punch in machine. There is a card with my name on it in a pouch. Ed picks it up and clocks in for me. He gives me a smile and places the card in the set of pouches on the opposite side.


"That was your demonstration, I hope you enjoyed." He jokes.


"I did, thank you." I play along with him.


He begins walking toward a small hallway - which I assume goes to the kitchen - and stops to show me a coat hanger on the wall. "This is where you put your stuff. So your purse" - he points at my hip - "will go here. You can keep your phone in your pocket if you want. Just don't get on it unless it's an emergency."


I put my bag on one of the hooks and shove my phone in my back pocket. He nods and continues walking. He comes to a halt at the end of the hall and nods his head behind him. I look over his shoulder and see there is a small stage and the dining room. I nod slowly and direct my attention back to him.


"That's the stage, we usually have bands play every weekend. People who eat in the dining room typically are here to eat some shitty food and rock out to shitty music." Ed gives me a wink, silently telling me he isn't being serious. I briefly smile at him and he steps to the left of me. "This is the kitchen. This is pretty much irrelevant to you, but it's always good to know in case you're hungry."


Ed walks back in the direction we came from. I follow him until we get to the bar. He takes me around the bar until we're behind it and I'm looking at the two middle-aged men at the bar. A woman who looks to be in her early forties approaches me with a smile on her face. She has medium length, thick, brown hair and bright blue eyes. She's a little shorter than me but looks like she doesn't take people's shit.


Ed gives the woman a side hug and turns back to look at me, "this is Nicole, she's the head bartender here - the one who reviewed your application and decided to hire you. She'll be training you back here."


Nicole stretches her hand out to me and I shake it. "All of this is a piece of cake. If a just-turned-twenty-one girl - who is constantly drunk - can do it, so can you," she has the slightest southern accent and I wonder where she's from.


"That's reassuring," I laugh.


Ed pats me on the shoulder, "I'll leave you to it, then. All of the tips you make tonight, you can take home with you. I'll be in my office, you can ask Nicole if you have any questions. Good luck."


I watch as he walks into a room next to the men's restroom and disappears behind the door. Then I look at the clock on the wall and see its 5:34. Not bad, I think.


"So," Nicole catches my attention and I make eye contact with her, letting her know I'm focused on her. "The job is pretty self-explanatory. All of your liquor is back here," she gestures to the wall behind the bar. All of the hard liquor sits in front of a mirror - a very dusty mirror - and in between two beautifully crafted wooden cabinets. "Just take the one that has already been opened and pour it in a glass. All of your beer is at the push of these levers. The bottles are in the coolers down here," she taps a hand on a large, metal box below the bar. "Back up is in the basement, just let me know if anything is out and I'll get it."


"Okay, will do. Is there anything else I should know? Like, register stuff," I ask.


She shakes her head, "nah. Most of the people who come in are regulars, and I know their orders like the back of my hand. If someone new comes in, I'll let you know." 


The first couple of hours are slow - really slow. It's Monday so barely any people want to come to a shitty bar in downtown Chicago. The majority of the people who do come in are middle-aged men whose wives don't want to have sex with them anymore. I know this because it's the only thing I hear for three hours.


"Tara won't fuck me anymore because she's too busy with the kids."


"Yeah, well Kaitlyn doesn't want to have sex with me because my back is too hairy."


*four hearty old men laughs*


Nicole keeps the conversations going in a less vulgar direction and I lean against the liquor wall. There isn't anything to do. I asked Nicole if I should wipe down tables or something but she said no, so here I am.


My eyes wander to the clock yet again and I see its 9:03. I have less than an hour. Nicole tells me to 'hold down the fort' while she goes to the restroom. I sigh and hear someone whistle. My head snaps toward the noise and I see the group of men at the opposite end of the bar staring at me.


"You're a new piece of eye-candy, little lady," a man with greying hair and a full beard calls.


I can't make any snarky remarks back because this is my workplace and the last thing I need is to get fired. I take a deep breath and look away from them.


"Oh, she's playing hard to get, Tom!" Another one laughs.


"Baby, you don't be playing hard to get when you see my-"


"Hey!" Nicole shouts, "you better shut your mouth before I kick you and your buddies outta here."


Tom stops talking immediately and takes a sip of his beer. All of the other men follow his lead and take a drink.


"Sorry about them, honey. They're assholes. If anything like that happens again, just tell them you kick 'em out and they'll shut right up. And if they don't, get Ed. He doesn't tolerate any of that." Nicole walks to the register and starts pressing buttons.


"Is it always this dead?" I ask.


She shakes her head and chuckles lightly. "Oh, no. It's a Monday night. Just wait until Thursday, that's the start of the weekend. That's when people are ready to forget their lives and get lost in alcohol. We are open until three rather than one. That's why you're scheduled at eight on Friday rather than five."


"Thank, God. 'Cause if it was always going to be like this, I might have actually ended up dying of boredom."


"You might not die of boredom, but you could die of alcohol poisoning. The Thursday through Saturday crowd will be more of your type, trust me. They're all in their twenties and I love them like my own children."


I laugh and push off the liquor counter to get someone a drink.




By the time I get back to my apartment, it's 11:28. The bar was hit with its late-night rush and Nicole asked me to stay so she could get it under control.


My head is pounding and all I want to do is flop onto my bed but I have to actually put my bed together. As soon as I'm through the door, I take off my shoes and open the box labeled 'bedtime', another label by Nick. I find my sheet, duvet, and pillows. Five minutes later, my bed is made and now it's time to get ready for bed.


I go to the bathroom, take my makeup off, and wash my face. Then, I brush my teeth and on my way back to bed, I take off all my clothes. I leave my underwear on because sleeping completely naked isn't something I want to do.


Once I'm in my bed, I click on my phone and go to the phone app. I tap on my older brother's number and listen to it ring. I don't expect an answer, there hasn't been one for a year. There hasn't been anyone to answer it for a year.


"If you ever need to talk to someone, I'll always be just a call away."


When he told me that, I don't think he expected that less than  a year later he'd be a lifetime away.


Just before the next ring, the dead air changes to more of a buzz and I wait to hear his voice.


"You have to stop calling this number," a deep, drunken, tired voice slurs through the phone.


I pull the phone away from my face and look at the screen. The red circle dulls and my recent call list is up.


Someone answered.


Someone answered.


No one has ever answered before. Why did someone answer.


I stare at the call log for ten minutes. The call was five seconds long. Five seconds. That's it. Five seconds for me to start crying. Five seconds for him to be officially gone. Five seconds for whoever that was to take my brother completely away from me.


Five. Fucking. Seconds.

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